from the NEW MEXICO
NEWS CONNECTION - A statewide news service for New Mexico
Estancia, NM - April 30, 2007 - Biomass power production is often touted as a "green" alternative to coal-fired plant electricity. But the "green" benefit is being questioned for a planned biomass power plant in Torrance County. The plant would burn trees from local forests to create electricity. The company behind the plant says thinning forests is good for their health, but that claim is being questioned. Now the plan is being scrutinized because it might not be so "clean" and "green" after all.
Bryan Bird with the group Forest Guardians is leading local opposition to the plant - which would burn piñon and juniper trees to make electricity, Click to Hear bird1.mp3 ("The problem is it's not necessarily clean and it's not renewable. It takes as long as 200 or 300 years for a piñon or juniper tree to grow to maturity in New Mexico. So eventually, we're going to end up mining our forests for energy.")
Proponents say the forests are overgrown, and thinning some trees to fuel the plant would be good for both local forests and watersheds but Bird disagrees, and says the plant would actually use a large amount of water for cooling, and create tons of air pollution. Bird says right now the Estancia Valley has a very clean airshed. But he worries that could change with added pollution from a new biomass plant, Click to Hear bird2.mp3 ("Any pollution in that valley is gonna sit in the valley under the heavier air above, and we think it may cause undue health concerns.")
PNM says it will purchase power from the 35-megawatt plant to serve some 25,000 homes in New Mexico. Bird says New Mexico's climate is better suited to other alternative energies, like wind and solar power. Visit Forest Guardians New Mexico at http://www.fguardians.org/ .