SRP extends its contract with Nova BioPower
SRP has approved a contract to continue to purchase renewable energy from a Snowflake biomass power plant that will provide reliable baseload power while helping to reduce the risk of devastating wildfires in northern Arizona.
The 10.5-year purchasing power agreement with Novo BioPower will use wood chips from strategic forest thinning efforts in the PRS watersheds, focusing on East Watershed projects Clear Creek and including the White Mountain Apache Tribal Lands. The plant’s SRP generating capacity will support approximately 80,000 acres of strategic forest thinning over the next 10 years while providing renewable energy to more than 3,000 SRP customers.
SRP manages the water supply for much of the valley, most of which comes from 8.3 million acres of land in northern Arizona. Snowfall and rain provide the water that crosses the watershed in SRP reservoirs, which is then delivered to 2.5 million homes and businesses in the Phoenix metro area through an extensive network of canals.
The northern Arizona woodlands have been hit by devastating wildfires and are poised for more infernos like those that hit Arizona, California and Colorado. Many northern Arizona woodlands have thousands of trees per acre and have suffered from extreme drought, which can fuel large wildfires with catastrophic impacts.
“Each year, hundreds of thousands of acres of forested land across Arizona remain at high risk of catastrophic wildfires. To reduce the risk of wildfires, partnerships like this help carry out thinning projects in the PRS watersheds, restore forests and watersheds to more natural conditions and avoid the devastating effects of forest fires on the natural ecosystem, rural communities and the valley water supply. These partnerships are critical to the success of forest thinning projects statewide,” said Elvy Barton, SRP’s director of forest health management. forests, this project will provide a reliable source of baseload renewable energy to SRP customers.”
SRP is working with the US Forest Service and other entities on a number of strategic forest thinning projects that will help mitigate the threat of wildfire and provide fuel for the renewable power plant. So far over 5,700 acres of trees have been thinned and approximately 16,000 acres are planned over the next four years.
Finding economically positive uses for the huge volume of biomass in the National Forests is a major hurdle to overcome in order to ensure the long-term protection of northern Arizona’s critical watersheds. The Novo BioPower provides the only existing market for low quality biomass materials.
It will also have the added benefit of creating more jobs in rural areas, increasing investment in infrastructure and equipment, and helping to stimulate rural economic development opportunities.
“Fire and water are the greatest natural resource problems Arizona will face in the next century. We are grateful that SRP has agreed that the impact of our biomass facility on the forest, watershed, air and economy is worth our facility continuing,” said Novo President and CEO. Biopower, Brad Worsley. “Novo Biopower is committed to continuing this great work to address the generational challenges that Arizonans face in our forests and watersheds.”
Novo BioPower currently directly and indirectly supports over 650 jobs and 15 different forest products industries currently operating in Arizona. Research also shows that forest thinning projects support up to 39.7 direct and indirect jobs per million dollars invested, which matches SRP’s investment with Novo BioPower.
Among SRP’s sustainability goals are a pledge to help thin 500,000 acres on SRP’s watersheds by 2035 and an expanded pledge to add 2,025 MW of new utility-scale solar to SRP’s renewable portfolio. PRS by 2025.
“The Novo BioPower plant can support a forest products industry that thins 15,000 to 20,000 acres per year,” said Leslie Meyers, SRP’s general manager of water and associate general manager of water resources. “In order to make meaningful progress in protecting Arizona’s forests and watersheds from another catastrophic wildfire, thinning must increase to 40,000 to 50,000 acres of woodland per year. A commodity industry new or expanded forest is essential to achieve the objectives of increasing the area.
Regarding the renewable energy portfolio, SRP also plans to add nearly 450 MW of battery storage by 2023, which is one of the largest battery storage commitments in the West. Additionally, SRP is set to announce several new storage projects in the coming months.
SRP is a not-for-profit, community-based electric utility and the largest electricity provider in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, serving approximately 1.1 million customers. SRP supplies water to approximately half of the Valley’s residents, providing more than 244 billion gallons of water (750,000 acre-feet) each year, and manages a 13,000 square mile watershed that includes a vast system of reservoirs, wells, canals and lateral irrigation.