Areva Inc., a French-owned nuclear services company, is scouting north Idaho for possible locations for a plant to turn wood waste into electricity.
Areva Vice President Bob Poyser, whose company also wants to build a uranium enrichment plant near Idaho Falls, told The Associated Press that it is looking for as many as two possible biomass locations in north Idaho or Washington state.
He said Thursday the company is looking in “the forested parts of Idaho north of Boise, that’s all I can tell you.”
The plant, or plants, would be part of a venture outlined earlier this month to develop biomass power plants in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.
Public utility consortium Energy Northwest and private energy company Adage, a joint venture of Areva and Duke Energy, announced their preliminary agreement Feb. 19.
Each plant would generate about 50 megawatts of electricity, or enough to supply 40,000 households.
Energy Northwest spokeswoman Rochelle Olson told The Associated Press the participants will use wood currently decaying on private lands as fuel. She said there will have to be enough fuel for a long-term contract.
Once the companies reach an agreement on supply sources, they will find nearby land for the biomass plant.
“The fuel use contracts will really drive where these plants are located,” Olson said.
Areva spokesman Jarrett Adams said the goal is to begin construction by 2010. Each plant would take two to three years to build. He said 400 jobs would be created by construction and there would be 100 permanent positions.
John Foster, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick, D-Idaho, said Areva’s interest in a biomass plant in Idaho is a sign of the state’s potential as a leader in renewable resources.
He said the state needs to have an improved forest management plan before it can be ready for biomass energy.
“We have to ensure a reliable supply of timber and from there the biomass facilities would go up quickly,” Foster said.
Foster said others, including the timber industry and a group in Priest River, have also expressed interest in a biomass plant.
In December, Areva filed an application with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, seeking to build a $2 billion uranium enrichment plant near Idaho Falls. If the application is approved, construction on the facility would not be completed until 2017.
The company won tax breaks from the Idaho Legislature in 2008 before deciding to build in the state. The uranium enrichment plant would be a smaller version of its Georges Besse II centrifuge enrichment facility now under construction in France.
Poyser mentioned the proposed biomass plant while giving lawmakers an update on the uranium enrichment facility. The company plans public hearings if its application is approved by the NRC.
Poyser estimated the application would be approved in February 2011.