Colorado Springs plant will use coal-biomass blend

By Lisa Gibson
Posted June 23, 2009, at 4:40 p.m. CST

Springs Utilities in Colorado Springs, will contract with a biomass management company this fall to deliver woody biomass to its Martin Drake Power Plant.

The available wood biomass supply is enough to continuously blend 15 percent biomass with 85 percent coal, according to Terry Meikle, who has led the effort to produce biomass energy in the area. That 15 percent will produce about 150,000 megawatts per year, he said. The wood biomass will include forestry in a 75-mile radius, including trees killed by pine beetles, and urban biomass such as pallets and tree trimmings, Meikle said. "We have a couple mitigation fuels that are available to us, as well," he added, citing wood pellets, energy crop pellets, and paper and cardboard pellets. The plant is capable of burning coal and natural gas and with the addition of biomass will be one of the few power plants in the nation that can burn three types of fuel.

Springs Utilities, which provides electricity to more than 200,000 customers, will construct a receiving, storage, processing and injection facility for unit 7 at the plant, along with adding new burners to an existing boiler for biomass compatibility, Meikle said. The receiving hopper, conveyor system, storage silo, grinding system and injection system will cost about $10 million. Construction has not yet begun, but commercialization is slated for 2011, Meikle said. Springs Utilities has been awarded a $250,000 USDA Woody Biomass Utilization Grant and an application has been submitted for a $5 million federal stimulus fund grant, according to Meikle.

The plant will receive raw biomass about three inches in size that will be processed down to pieces that are one-fourth inch or smaller, Meikle said. "The boiler is a pulverized coal unit, so the biomass has to be small enough where it will be able to completely combust in three to five seconds," he said. The addition of biomass to the plant's fuel has been well-received by the community, he added.