F. H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company is looking to upgrade its boilers and in the process its plant in a fairly big way.
Stoltze is focusing plans to create a co-generation system as part of the mill’s operation and create electricity. A system that burns woody biomass, by-products of forest harvest, is planned.
“Our boilers are celebrating their 100th birthday this year,” Joe O’Rourke said. “A new system has to be put in. When we began to examine options we began looking at not only new boilers, but installing a co-generation system.”
O’Rourke, Stoltze’s plant manager, presented the company’s plans to the Columbia Falls City Council at its Feb. 17 meeting.
He came before the Council to ask for city support in the project as the company secures funding for the plant through grants, tax credits and other areas.
The Council informally agreed to have Mayor Jolie Fish write a letter supporting the plan. The letter will be forwarded to local and state representatives.
“Woody biomass is a clean, renewable energy source that is very complimentary to a saw mill because it burns what is we normally leave in the woods,” O’Rourke said.
Stoltze plans to build a co-generation system that would burn woody biomass that in turn would create steam used in drying wood.
“It would be used to generate electricity at the same time which would be sold onto the grid,” O’Rourke said.
He noted that the electricity would likely be sold to Flathead Electric Co-op or to NorthWestern Energy.
Woody biomass is what’s left behind when an area is logged. It’s the trees and woody plants including limbs, needles and leaves not harvested.
O’Rourke called the process “carbon neutral.”
“There’s less discharge (of carbon) at the plant than if you let the material rot in the woods,” he said.
Stoltze conducted a fuel study to determine the feasibility of the product.
The study looked at a 75-mile radius and found that there is enough biomass available to support the system. Biomass would be collected from the some 38,000 acres in the Flathead Valley owned by Stoltze.
The plant is expected to generate up to 12 megawatts of power. That amount created could fluctuate based upon when energy consumption is high.
O’Rourke said Flathead Electric estimates that an annual increase of five to six megawatts of power will be need per year to handle growing local demand.
The plant could be operational in 18 to 24 months after funding and permits are secured, said O’Rourke.
Stoltze last month announced that it would temporarily shut down the plant for about six weeks. Initially about half the mill’s workforce was expected to be impacted.
“This (the co-generation plant) has economic incentive to help with tough times and help prevent layoffs,” said O’Rourke.
He said co-generation could create eight jobs at the plant and more outside of Stoltze.
“Independent contractors will bring in the biomass product and that will likely create more jobs,” he said.
By HEIDI DESCH, Hungry Horse News – http://www.hungryhorsenews.com/articles/2009/02/25/news/doc49a573738b4c0115066197.txt