Longview Fibre Paper and Packaging Inc. announced Thursday it will build a $100 million power plant to convert waste wood into renewable energy, a hot commodity for electric utilities that must meet green-energy laws.
Fibre officials said the 65-megawatt biomass plant will annually burn some 38,000 tons of mill waste, including wood chips, sawdust and hog fuel.
“We are investing in our infrastructure at the mill. This project will support our goals to use biomass-based energy, improve efficiencies and solidify the long-term viability of the business,” Fibre President Randy Nebel said in a written statement.
The company, which applied for a permit this week from the state Department of Ecology, said it hoped the plant will be operating by the end of 2011.
Biomass power plants make sense for pulp and paper manufacturers, such as Fibre, which have wood waste on site, said Peter Moulton, bio-energy coordinator for the state Department of Commerce. Other mills, such as Port Townsend Paper Corp., are starting similar projects, he said.
“There’s a reason why all the mills are turning into bio-energy refineries. When you look at bio-energy factories in our state, pulp and paper factories are the low-hanging fruit,” Moulton said.
Fibre officials say they haven’t determined how much, if any, excess power they will be able to sell to utilities in Western states hungry to meet state-mandated renewable-energy standards.
By 2020, 15 percent of the power sold by large Washington utilities will have to come from renewable resources, according to voter-approved Initiative 937. In California, some utilities will be required to obtain as much as 33 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.
As a large power consumer, Fibre must produce or purchase renewable energy to meet its contract with Cowlitz PUD, utility spokesman Dave Andrew said. The biomass plant would fulfill that requirement, he said.
“Any industry or company in the region that builds a renewable resource is a real positive for the region,” Andrew said.
The Fibre project is the third major biomass energy project to emerge in Cowlitz County in recent months. Vancouver-based Northwest Renewables LLC announced in September it was changing plans and will build a 24-megawatt biomass plant at the Mint Farm Industrial Park, instead of an ethanol plant.
In October, Olympia entrepreneur Marc Rappaport said he was trying to develop a biomass plant in Longview near Swanson Bark that would be capable of producing 25 megawatts of power and 20 million gallons of ethanol a year.
Fibre’s biomass project likely won’t create any new full-time jobs at the mill, company officials said. The company hasn’t determined how many construction jobs would be created, Fibre spokeswoman Sarah Taydas said.
Erik Olson, The Daily News – http://www.tdn.com/news/local/article_8643f3e6-06e7-11df-beda-001cc4c03286.html