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Colo. Springs Utilities plans to use less coal next year

By Rachael Plath, Good Morning Colorado Meteorologist/Reporter, r.plath@krdo.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 05:48:51 AM CST

Colorado Springs Utilities will be conducting a study that will determine the cost associated with burning more wood and less coal at the Martin Drake Power Plant beginning January 1.

Wood chips will be powering Colorado Springs beginning in 2014.  It’s part of a study conducted by Colorado Springs Utilities that hopes to determine a more environmentally friendly method of generating electricity.

At the Martin Drake Power Plant, a “woody biomass” will replace about 30,000 tons of coal next year.  The biomass will be comprised of wood from recent wildfires, mitigation and other scrap wood that is clean of paints or treatments, and coal.

“We’re taking waste wood.  We’re taking landfill-directed waste and clean waste wood and instead of burying it, we’re bringing it here, chipping it up and making electric energy; renewable energy,” said Terry Meikle, biomass energy project manager with CSU.

Less ash is produced when burning wood as compared to coal, which reduces the amount of ash that ends up in landfills.  Wood also produces fewer emissions than coal. 

Meikle said burning wood is a cheaper alternative to other environmentally-friendly fuel sources, like solar and wind power.  He said burning wood is more reliable that wind and solar also, since it can be controlled.

According to Meikle, the year-long study has four goals:

  • Determining the effect of Biomass on existing coal blending and generating equipment.
  • Determining the reliability of the supply chain.
  • Determining the costs for sustainable renewable electric energy production.
  • Determine the maximum woody biomass/coal co-firing percentage.

The wood will be provided by local supplier, Rocky Top Resources.  It will provide 50 to 60 tons of wood chips per day. 

Natural wood waste will also be contributed by Fort Carson, which will in turn help the post become a Net Zero Energy and Waste Installation. 

The year-long study will begin on Jan. 1

For more information on the woody biomass project, click here.

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