Urban tree waste is the primary source of biomass fuel for the combined heat and power plant, with approximately 40 truckloads of wood fuel delivered each day. These urban wood residuals typically originate within 60 miles of the plant and come from commercial and municipal tree trimming and removal, residential tree waste, habitat restoration, and other processing that leaves behind a low-grade wood by-product.
Using this local, renewable energy source decreases our dependence on fossil fuels and increases our resiliency, while providing an important service to metro area communities needing to dispose of their tree waste in an environmentally responsible way. Each year, the combined heat and power plant turns approximately 240,000 tons of tree waste into renewable electricity and heat. Using these tree residuals as a fuel source also keeps more of our customer’s energy dollars in the local economy.
For our region, the use of tree waste for bioenergy serves several critical functions. Through our affiliate, Environmental Wood Supply, our team works with cities, counties, private land owners, and businesses who need help dealing with storm-damaged, diseased, infested, and other compromised trees. This also includes providing a destination for urban tree waste. Since 2008, we have helped to curb the spread of emerald ash borer by working with communities and wood haulers that follow guidelines for invasive species containment. We provide an efficient process for managing these wood waste streams, with the additional benefit of converting it to renewable energy. In areas without this alternative, tree waste is often open-burned, causing local air quality issues, or left in piles to decompose. This is a less than ideal outcome and misses the opportunity to convert this local resource to usable energy. The use of biomass plays an important part of maintaining our cost competitiveness, decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels, increasing our resilience to volatile fuel markets, lowering our carbon profile, and preserving our ability to leverage the high-efficiency energy capture of CHP. We are proud to be part of providing a local, renewable energy source to Saint Paul.