Sen. Udall tours biomass power plant in Gypsum, Colo.

By Sen. Mark Udall’s office | August 12, 2013

Following a visit to the site of Gypsum's new biomass power plant, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said this public-private partnership should serve as an example for the nation on how to create jobs and generate energy while also reducing wildfire risks in our national forests. Udall said this project shows why Congress needs to act quickly to renew the U.S. Forest Service's Stewardship Contracting Authority, which supports public-private partnerships to improve forest health and reduce wildfire risks.

The Gypsum biomass power plant, operated by Holy Cross Energy, will be fueled by beetle-kill trees and slash harvested by a contractor under a long-term stewardship contract with the White River National Forest. The U.S. Forest Service's ability to enter into these contracts ends on Sept. 30, 2013.

"With modern mega-fires becoming a growing problem that threatens Colorado communities, our precious water supplies and our way of life in the West, we need to use every tool we have to reduce wildfire risks. The Gypsum biomass power plant shows how we can reduce wildfire risks, create jobs and generate renewable energy sources," Udall said. "This biomass power plant also underscores the urgency for renewing the U.S. Forest Service's Stewardship Contracting Authority by passing a Farm Bill. If Congress does not stand with me and act, job-creating public-private partnerships like this will grind to a halt."

The Gypsum biomass plant, which is expected to open by the end of the year, will convert wood chips from beetle-killed trees into enough electricity to run the plant and pump an additional 10 megawatts into Holy Cross Energy, which powers about 55,000 customers in Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield, Gunnison and Mesa counties. Much of the wood the plant will process will come from beetle-killed trees from the White River National Forests.

The U.S. Forest Service announced its partnership with the Gypsum biomass plant last November as part of two 10-year stewardship contracts aimed at removing dead trees from about 20,000 acres of this public land.

Udall has been a strong proponent of woody biomass projects. Last year, he welcomed the U.S. Forest Service's partnership with J.R. Ford and the Pagosa Land Co. to extract forest material designated by the U.S. Forest Service for removal to promote forest health and convert the material into electricity. Udall also has heralded the efforts of private companies that are creating jobs by turning beetle-kill and other forest products into commercial lumber.

Udall's visit to Gypsum is part of his statewide energy tour, a series of roundtables and other events with Colorado energy industry officials, local leaders and the public to highlight how Colorado's balanced approach to energy development and innovation is a model for the country. As part of his tour, Udall has visited several energy-development projects, including Adolfson & Peterson's solar thermal unit in Aurora, the National Wind Technology Center in Louisville and the Elk Creek Mine and methane-capture project in Somerset.