Colorado Buys Renewable Energy Certificates to Permit Wood Burning

Denver - The State of Colorado said The Forest Service purchased 750MWh-eequivalent Renewable Energy Certificates to help support efforts to develop oportunities for "co-firing" coal and small-diameter trees ("woody biomass") for power generation.

Fire hazards abound throughout Colorado in what are considered "Red Zones", where overgrowth of trees and underbrush threaten populated areas. Through a partnership with the USDA Forest Service and the Colorado Governor's Office of Energy Management and Conservation (OEMC), officials hope reduce the threat of fire by creating ways to combine Biomass fuels with coal in power generation facilities.

By consuming biomass fuels the reduction in potential fire hazards can be achieved while creating eco-friendly means of generating energy from renewable resources.

It is exciting to promote innovative ways for the agency to accomplish two vital objectives using a method that benefits so many," Rick Cables, USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Regional Forester. In Colorado alone, 6.2 million acres fall within the "Red Zone" -- areas in which communities and homes are at risk from wildfires, mainly due to the unnatural buildup of vegetation.

"Not only are we reducing the risks of wildfires to communities, but we are providing a renewable energy source that also reduces emissions," said Cables. Biomass co-firing offsets the emissions that would otherwise be generated by coal. The Forest Service transaction is the first example of forest-derived biomass RECs being sold on the voluntary market.

The RECs were developed through a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy via OEMC. The OEMC's implementing partners -- Aquila, Inc., McNeil Technologies, Inc. and the Colorado Energy Science Center (CESC) -- developed the first U.S. pilot program for selling the RECs generated by co-firing biomass and coal. "We believe that RECs offer a unique opportunity to use forest waste materials as renewable fuels," said Drew Bolin, the OEMC Director.

Using the forest thinnings at a power plant creates a market outlet for what would otherwise be a waste material. If contractors can profit by selling the biomass, it may be possible to lower the costs of thinning forest waste and treat additional forest lands that are in need of mitigation work.

RECs are an innovative tool for supporting the expansion of renewable energy. RECs have been purchased by federal agencies and corporations.