The Arizona municipalities of Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe have joined forces with the Salt River Project to help pay for bioenergy that supports strategic forest thinning across the Salt River and Verde River watersheds.
SRP signed an agreement with the municipalities to provide funding to extend a purchased power agreement with Novo BioPower in Snowflake, Ariz. that generates renewable bioenergy by processing the small trees that are removed through forest thinning projects in northern Arizona.
The Novo Biopower plant uses small trees from forest thinning, other non-marketable woody material such as branches that are left over from thinning operations, and sawmill residues.
SRP notes that a challenge to restoration efforts is finding marketable options for the enormous amount of low-value, small ponderosa pine trees that are removed.
Bioenergy is one of the few options available to dispose of these trees. By extending the PPA with Novo Biopower, the partnership supports the bioenergy industry and ensures thinning projects move forward to continue protecting watersheds and mitigating wildfire risk, SRP said.
The Biomass Power Partnership provides each municipality with renewable energy credits based on their contribution. In addition, each city will receive watershed restoration and carbon benefits and support almost 2,000 acres of strategic forest thinning every year.
The 10-year agreement is part of SRP’s 2035 sustainability goals to protect the health of the watersheds through partnerships, education and support to thin 500,000 acres of unhealthy overgrown forested lands by 2035.
Arizona forests are at a high risk of catastrophic fires that could significantly impact the watersheds that feed SRP’s reservoir system and provide water to the Valley.
Wildfires degrade water quality, significantly increase water treatment costs, and impact water system resiliency by filling reservoirs with debris and sediment. Strategic forest thinning projects in northern Arizona reduce this risk and also protect nearby communities and wildlife habitats.
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 travels through the watershed into SRP reservoirs, which is then delivered to 2.5 million homes and businesses in the Phoenix metropolitan area via an extensive network of canals.