Xcel Energy seeks biomass gasification demonstration facility

By Xcel Energy | May 21, 2013

In an effort to spur the development of new generating technologies and contribute to forest health in the state, Xcel Energy filed May 20 with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for approval of a demonstration project to solicit electricity production from gasification of forest biomass.

Xcel Energy would seek bids for a power purchase agreement (PPA) of up to 2 megawatts of generation, under special provisions of the state’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES) statute.

“Since 2007, Xcel Energy has been investigating small, forest biomass project opportunities. Because the overall health of Colorado forests has degraded due to drought and infestation, there has been increasing interest among various stakeholders to pursue this type of demonstration project,” said David Eves, president and CEO of Public Service Co. of Colorado, an Xcel Energy company.

“Xcel Energy would gain valuable experience concerning the potential use of biomass for future electricity generation, and we would be able to determine whether this type of technology is a reasonable and promising way to address the health of our Colorado forests,” Eves added.

Some of these affected areas are close to the Xcel Energy’s service territory in Colorado, and could have future impact on company infrastructure and service reliability, which makes the project of interest to the company.

In addition, the U.S. Forest Service is increasing its forest health restoration efforts, and has indicated to Xcel Energy that it wants a better understanding of whether woody biomass byproducts from its forest treatment efforts can be feasibly used for heat and electricity.

“The Forest Service supports the use of biomass for energy. Expanding this opportunity carries out our priority to accelerate the pace of forest restoration, to contribute to job creation, and to create healthier and more resilient forests for the future. Reducing the risk of wildfire protects vital infrastructure on the landscape,” said Daniel Jirón, regional forester for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service.

The filing also is consistent with the Colorado General Assembly’s direction to the CPUC to give the fullest possible consideration to new clean and energy efficient technologies, when the commission considers new utility resources. The filing gives the CPUC more leeway in addressing newer technologies in terms of resource planning Xcel Energy would seek a 10¬year PPA for the demonstration facility upon approval by the CPUC. After issuing a request for proposal (RFP), the company would report back to the commission on potential projects by October 2013 and seek approval of the company’s recommendation. The in-service date for the facility would be determined based on the RFP process.