The Salt River Project, the public utility that owns the Coronado Generating Station in St. Johns, Arizona, says the experiment will evaluate the viability of creating power from a renewable source while reducing wildfire risk. The plant isn’t designed to burn biomass; the study will also test how the equipment and systems handles the new feedstock.
A one-day test of burning biomass along with coal took place on Oct. 26. If it is successful, a 10-day burn will start on Nov. 10, followed by another 10-day burn using a higher percentage of biomass burned.
As utilities retire coal-fired power plants across the US, converting these plants to burn biomass presents a business opportunity for private companies, said Lisa Grice, global director of sustainability services at environmental consulting firm Ramboll Environ.
This can also help states meet their greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in line with the US commitments under the Paris climate agreement as well as the Clean Power Plan, currently tied up in court.
“There are all these stranded assets in the form of coal-fired power plants,” Grice said in an earlier interview. “For the private sector it’s an interesting business opportunity. Converting these big plants to burn biomass fuel opens doors for new lending opportunities and also technical opportunities — system design, construction, technology.”