After boosting its solar power generation and adding wind-energy projects in recent years, Tucson Electric Power Co. is looking at biomass generation from burning wood or other organic matter.
TEP said Friday that it is seeking information about forest biomass generation systems that could generate power for customers while improving the health of Arizona forests.
The utility issued a request for information about technologies, costs, environmental benefits, construction requirements and interconnection requirements of forest biomass energy projects.
The information will be used to “help determine the feasibility of using forest feedstocks as a renewable resource in Arizona,” TEP said.
Biomass power plants use the heat produced from the combustion of wood or other organic materials to generate electricity.
Fuels may include forest residues, crop residues, primary and secondary mill residues, and urban wood waste.
TEP said it will coordinate with other Arizona utilities, as appropriate, to consider joint efforts to develop a forest biomass energy project.
The Novo BioPower Plant in Snowflake burns chipped wood from Arizona’s forests to produce 27 megawatts of power, which is under contract by Arizona Public Service Co. and the Salt River Project to meet part of the utilities’ renewable-energy requirements.
While some scientists consider biomass generation carbon-neutral, some environmentalists disagree and others are concerned that it could increase other kinds of pollution and lead to over-cutting of forests.
TEP said it anticipates filing a forest biomass proposal with the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2019. The commission held a workshop on biomass generation last December.
The utility says it is working to deliver at least 30 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2030, doubling the state’s 2025 goal.
Nearly 13 percent of TEP’s power came from solar, wind and other renewable resources last year, well above Arizona’s 7 percent requirement for 2017, the company said.
The request for information process is being managed by New Hampshire-based Accion Group. A copy of the request can be found at tepbiorfi.accionpower.com.
TEP provides electric service to about 424,000 customers in Southern Arizona.