Eco-briefs | Xcel Energy: Turn dead trees into a power source

Rob Guralnick with animal specimens
Photo by Casey A. Cass/CU-Boulder


Xcel Energy has filed with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission for approval of a project that would produce electricity by burning dead wood and using the steam to turn an electrical turbine.

Xcel is seeking a 10-year power purchase agreement for the two-megawatt demonstration facility.

By making insect-infested and drought-stricken forest biomass into fuel, the biomass generation facility could help address Colorado’s forest health issues, according to Xcel, in addition to increasing understanding about how to use woody biomass byproducts for heat and electricity.

“Xcel Energy would gain valuable experience concerning the potential use of biomass for future electricity generation, and we would be able to determine whether this type of technology is a reasonable and promising way to address the health of our Colorado forests,” David Eves, the president and CEO of Public Service Company of Colorado, said in a press release.

The U.S. Forest Service has asked Xcel to provide additional information on the feasibility of this process for generating heat and electricity.


With the launch of a new online project, citizen scientists everywhere can now help fill in the gaps on maps of the globe by transcribing handwritten tags on billions of animal and plant specimens stored in drawers and jars at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.

“You can look at maps of the globe and you can see spots where we just don’t know anything about vertebrates, let alone insects or plants or mollusks,” Robert Guralnick, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and CU-Boulder’s point person on the Notes from Nature project, said in a press release. “We can fill in the gaps with these kinds of data that come from those drawers.”

Those interested in participating can transcribe handwritten notes that detail the date, time and place, among other details, for collecting that specimen.

A month after the website for the project,, went live in late April, 2,100 people had completed more than 101,000 transcriptions. The project is the result of a collaboration among the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, the Natural History Museum of London, the South Eastern Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC) and the University of California Berkeley’s Calbug project, an umbrella organization for nine insect collections in California.

Once all the transcribing is done, the results will add to existing projects like Map of Life, found at


A new website created to connect people to green businesses and nonprofits, Greener50, is hosting a contest as part of its launch promotion. The website, created by Boulder locals Rick Oberreuter and Matt Neidenberg, will provide a business directory and a job board for people looking to connect with and work for sustainable businesses and organizations across the country or learn from industry professionals.

The contest asks for entrants to answer the question, “If you had one wish and could solve any environmental problem, what would it be and why?” The contest is open to the public, and winners based on the Greener50 team’s selection and the highest vote-getters will receive a storefront level membership in the new website. Voting is open at through June 5.