Biomass Plant Creates Energy From Devastation

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On June 20, 2002, two massive wildfires merged into one of the worst wildfires in Arizona history.

Now, the fire-damaged wood of the Rodeo-Chediski fire will fuel Arizona's newest renewable energy project, a 24 mega-watt electrical biomass plant in Navajo County, just West of Snowflake.

The project is reported to be the largest biomass plant to be constructed in the United States in over a decade. Snowflake White Mountain Power (SWMP) will build the plant adjacent to the Abitibi Paper Mill on State Highway 277.

The Arizona Department of Commerce awarded allocation of a $39.25 Million Private Activity Bond to facilitate the project.

In addition to damaged wood, the plant will provide a market for small diameter timber and will act as a disposal site for sawmill waste, slash material from thinning projects, and will incorporate recycled waste paper fibers reducing landfill waste.

SWMP is certified under the Healthy Forest Enterprise Incentives Program because of this activity.

"This plant is consistent with our efforts in Arizona to protect our forested communities, restore our forests to a healthy condition and develop long-term sustainable economic development opportunities for the forested areas of our state," said Gov. Janet Napolitano.

The project will add 12 to 15 full-time permanent jobs on top of the 65 new jobs already filled by men and women working in the woods to collect the fuel. Plant construction employment will be sizeable.

"This project creates high-wage jobs in Snowflake, increases the available electricity to the White Mountain communities, and facilitates the restoration of Arizona's fire devastated forest," said Arizona Department of Commerce Director Gilbert Jimenez.

Power output from the facility will be sold to SRP and APS, assisting the energy providers in meeting Arizona Corporation Commission requirements for energy from renewable sources.

"In just over a year we'll be able to fire up the boiler for the first test runs and we expect to be in full-scale electrical production by the end of 2007," said Bob Worsley, CEO of SWMP.

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