Two Montana energy companies have been awarded a total of $425,000 in grants for biomass energy feasibility studies through the Montana Department of Commerce.á The Department has awarded $300,000 to Porter Bench Energy, LLC and $125,000 to NorthWestern Energy for the preparation of biomass feasibility studies focused on assessing the potential for the development of woody biomass generation plants in Montana.á
The potential for biomass power production in Montana is significant, according to the state agency. Timber waste has proven to be a valuable feedstock and new energy development could be a shot in the arm to a struggling timber industry.
The State of Montana is looking to the western part of the state as a potential location for private sector driven development of woody biomass energy generation plants. This will be a complement to ongoing projects that use alternative energy sources for power generation.
The Montana Reinvestment Act (HB 645), passed by the 61st Montana Legislature, appropriated $475,000 in funds for the Montana Department of Commerce to fund biomass project feasibility studies and other expenditures related to biomass.á The Montana Reinvestment Act implements the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 (stimulus funding).
The grant to Porter Bench Energy, LLC will assist the company in advancing its mission to develop multiple biomass plants in Montana. PB Energy has completed an initial review of biomass power generation potential in Lincoln and Flathead Counties. With this grant, they will expand their research to include the entire Western part of Montana.
The grant to NorthWestern Energy will enable the company to assess the feasibility of constructing up to eight biomass electricity plants throughout its service territory in Montana, concentrating on an area from the Flathead Valley, through Missoula, Butte and Big Timber. NorthWestern could potentially purchase or construct up to 200 MW of biomass electricity through this region and will partner with state and federal agencies to facilitate this study.
The remaining $50,000 in grant funds will be awarded to the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to continue existing biomass programs.