Northwest Renewable News

Your Daily Source for Renewable Energy News in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana & Northern California

Oregon Farmers examine biomass crops and power generation February 10, 2010

Local farmers Monday were invited to be involved in the renewable energy field, not only as producers of a crop that could be turned into a fuel, but also as owners of the power generation facility that would burn the crop to produce electricity.

The question is “are we going to be in the driver’s seat?” Randon Wilson, an attorney who specializes in forming agriculture co-ops, said. “We have to decide where we are in charge.”

Wilson told the group, gathered at the Boulevard Grange near Ontario, as members of a proposed co-op for production of biomass crops, they could own the whole process from farm to processing to generation, or they could just do a portion of it. That would include producing the biomass crop that would be turned into fuel or producing the crop and the processing facility that would turn the crop into pellets.

It would take about five months to construct a processing plant to make the pellets, Wilson said. Construction of a power plant will take 18 to 24 months, Renewable Ag Energy Inc. President Kirk Christensen said.

The meeting was hosted by representatives of Renewable Ag Energy, Inc., an Ontario company assisting a group of local farmers, Agri Energy Producers, to bring a new crop to Malheur County.

While there is more than one crop that would produce the biomass, the co-op proponents were mainly discussing high biomass sorghum.

The high biomass crops would be planted in late May. Irrigation and fertilizer applications would be similar to corn. It would be harvested in September or October. Chopped green, it would be hauled to a conversion facility, where it would be stored, dried, cubed and shipped.

Harvesting, hauling and processing costs will be absorbed by the co-op, Christensen said.

“We’re not playing the fuel market,” Christensen said.

The farmers would be paid for growing the crop and participate in the profits from the conversion plan and profits from the generation facility, he said.

“We can’t survive on just what is produced on the farm,” Wilson said. “We need more bites. We have to take a look at energy.”

It was estimated the power plant would support 17 to 20 family-wage jobs, Christensen said.

Choices include full integration, wholly owned by the farmers, or partial integration, linked with other joint ventures or investors, Wilson said. But, it becomes difficult when you mix producers and investors, Wilson said, because eventually there are tensions between the two interests.

“We would like to get the jump on creating a state-wide co-op,” he said, adding that different groups of growers could act as separate divisions.

Such a large co-op would give the producers a lot of clout, Wilson said.

“There is a significant market,” he said.

Wilson, Christensen and others were also meeting with representatives from state agencies this week to discuss the permitting processes, land-use and other regulation issues.

Larry Meyer, Argus Observer –


Mont. City and county seek funding for biomass project February 5, 2010

Filed under: Biomass,Co-Generation,Montana,Renewable Energy Projects,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 8:30 pm
Tags: ,

Helena city commissioners signed on with Lewis and Clark County commissioners on Thursday to jointly pursue federal funding toward a possible biofuel energy project in the county on Thursday.

The county commissioners said Jan. 27 they would assemble an appropriations request for Montana’s congressional delegation in hopes of securing federal money for a possible project to use local trees to produce local energy.

The city commissioners then accepted a county invitation to join in on pursuing a planning grant for the project on Thursday, citing mutual interests.

The local biofuel project, possibly consisting of some sort of materials production plant and the installation of biomass boilers in certain city-county buildings, would primarily provide a use for millions of trees killed throughout the region by the pine bark beetle infestation.

“We have our own problems with (beetle-damaged trees on) the open lands that we’ve got — not enough to run a plant forever, but we’re interested in disposing of wood,” City Commissioner Paul Cartwright said.

“It makes sense to look at it area-wide. Can it be done? Because we’re all in the same valley whose problems we all suffer and whose benefits we all gain.”

Before completely jumping in, the city commissioners did make sure that the planning grant would include a feasibility assessment, to determine if the area has enough fuel to support the project, and a report on the possible level of air pollution from burning biomass to create heat or energy.

Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg both have previously told the Independent Record they would “absolutely” carry a funding request from the city or county for a biofuel project of some kind. Both the senator and the congressman, as well as city and county officials, have advocated looking into a smaller-scale production, not a full-fledged biomass energy plant.

At the Thursday meeting, though, the group said both Tester’s and Rehberg’s deadline is March 1 for such a proposal, leaving little time to prepare an appropriations request.

“We’ve addressed some of these questions just dealing with the dead wood on city open space,” said Cartwright, who admitted the county was still taking the lead on the proposal. “We’ve looked at how much can you take off without damaging the forest, how much you have to chip, how many dead snags you have to leave.

“I think for the city to go forward in a project like this, it’d have to meet those kinds of standards. We’re not going to mine the forest.”

Aside from possible fuel sources from public lands, the group also discussed recent interest voiced by non-industrial, private land owners as to making their pine bark beetle-damaged wood available to the project.

Trent Makela, Helena Independent Record


Bioenergy company to build plant in Shelton February 4, 2010

A Maryland-based company bioenergy company has plans to build in Shelton a $250 million plant that converts wood waste from logging into energy.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, ADAGE company officials and others are scheduled to announce details of the project Thursday afternoon at the Port of Olympia.

The biomass power plant is expected to support 275 direct and indirect jobs per year, generate enough renewable energy to power 40,000 homes and pump some $70 million annually into the local economy.

The plant will use green technology to ensure lower greenhouse gas emissions and water use than a traditional power plant, according to advance information about Thursday’s announcement.

John Dodge, The Olympian


biomass power plant discussed in Flathead Valley January 24, 2010

Filed under: Biomass,Co-Generation,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 2:49 pm

The closure of the Smurfit-Stone container mill in Frenchtown has amplified the need and potential for a co-generation plant fueled by biomass in the Flathead Valley.

That was the message from a panel of speakers at Flathead Valley Community College on Thursday night. It was the fourth in a series of seven programs in the Re-Powering the Flathead Community Dialogue Series.

“We definitely have the excess [biomass] now without Smurfit,” said Chuck Roady, vice president of Stoltze Land and Lumber, a company that has been aggressively exploring the potential for a co-generation plant at its sawmill complex west of Columbia Falls.

“We have a real passion about trying to do something with this,” said Roady, who went on to make a strong pitch for the future of biomass energy to a crowd of nearly 150 people.

“Most importantly, it helps us manage our forests,” he said, explaining how roundwood, chips and otherwise useless byproducts from logging projects have for years been hauled for productive use at the Frenchtown mill.

Now, much of that material will be left in the woods to rot or be burned in open slash piles, increasing air pollution.

The better alternative involves putting the material to energy-producing use, burning it in a high-tech furnace with emissions controls at a co-generation plant, he said.

Stoltze did a detailed analysis of biomass availability within a 75-mile radius of its Columbia Falls facilities, finding there would be enough available material under the company’s historic, rather than potential, harvest levels to provide fuel for the 15-megawatt co-generation plant that Stoltze wants to build.

But Roady said there is urgency involved with the company’s pursuits: specifically, Montana’s infrastructure of experienced loggers, truckers and their equipment.

“We have … still hanging on by their teeth, the loggers and truckers,” Roady said.

He noted that the state of Montana’s Jump Start Program for putting loggers to work with forest stewardship projects has cost about $700 an acre to implement.

But a similar program in Colorado costs twice as much because that state’s logging infrastructure vanished years ago.

“It takes two years to build one of these plants. We need to think ahead,” Roady said in an interview Friday. “Why not take advantage of the natural resources we have right here, let alone the people and the infrastructure we have in the forest products industry. That’s one of the things that would keep the costs down.”

Stoltze estimates it would cost about $50 million to build a 15-megawatt plant, and that’s where the obstacles arrive.

Even after up-front investments, producing biomass energy continually costs about three times more than existing power sources in the Flathead, most notably hydropower. That’s because biomass material must constantly be cut, processed and transported.

“Even though it costs more doesn’t mean it’s the wrong thing to do,” said Roady, who stressed that the key to building a co-generation plant involves winning the support of Flathead Valley ratepayers to go along with modest increases in power costs.

An increased availability of investment capital, along with tax credits and fuel incentive programs that match those that are available for the development of other renewable energy sources, would help Stoltze in its efforts, Roady said.

He urged the FVCC audience to “think beyond today,” and realize that population growth in the region will eventually create the need for additional energy sources.

Bill Carlson, a consultant who has played a part in multiple biomass energy projects across the country, and Angela Farr, manager of the Montana Department of Natural Resource and Conservation’s biomass utilization program, both affirmed the feasibility of developing biomass as an energy source in the Flathead.

Both also outlined many of the challenges discussed by Roady.

Carlson noted that because Bonneville Power Administration transmission lines in Western Montana are at capacity, a local co-generation  plant would need to be integrated as a local power supply. And supplying a co-generation  plant also must rely on nearby biomass because of transportation costs.

“At the end of the day, biomass is local,” Carlson said.

The next program in the Re-Powering the Flathead series will be “Building Green Homes for Today and Tomorrow,” scheduled for Feb. 18.

Jim Mann, Daily Interlake –


Update: Construction of 4 NW biomass plants may begin in 2010 March 19, 2009

Filed under: Biomass,Co-Generation,Idaho,Montana,Oregon,Washington,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 2:09 pm
Tags: ,

Power plants that would burn mostly wood waste fit into the Northwest’s energy portfolio because they would complement another emerging energy source, wind power, an Energy Northwest representative says.

The 50-megawatt, wood-burning power plants would generate electricity at maximum power about 90 percent of the time, said Jack Baker, vice president of Energy Northwest’s energy and business services. In comparison, Baker said wind turbines average about 30 percent of their rated capacity.

The plants would burn wood waste — fallen trees, stripped limbs left over by timber companies, beetle-killed wood, smaller trees cut down by logging companies but not hauled away and even some construction materials. The heat produced would then power a steam turbine, creating electricity.

Each plant should create enough power for about 40,000 homes. It would first be marketed to Energy Northwest’s utility members, which include the Benton and Franklin PUDs and the city of Richland.

Baker said it would be considered renewable energy. “It makes the forest a lot healthier and reduces fire hazards,” he said.

The power plants would be close to carbon-neutral, Baker said, because most of the carbon dioxide emissions would be absorbed by surrounding trees.

It would cost about $100 to $140 to produce a megawatt-hour of electricity, he said. Energy Northwest CEO Vic Parrish said that without tax incentives, wind power costs about $90 per megawatt-hour.

“It’s totally comparable to a wind resource,” he said Monday.

Energy Northwest has partnered with ADAGE, a joint venture between AREVA and Duke Energy, to build several biomass-burning plants in the Northwest.

Baker said the company is planning to build five, but that number may change, depending on economic conditions and fuel availability.

Baker said sites are being considered in Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Once a location is found and permits are in hand, he hopes construction can begin in 2010 and the first plant online by late 2012 or early 2013.

Jani Gilbert, communications director for Eastern Washington with the state Department of Ecology, said a biomass-burning plant likely would need air and water quality permits, some of them before construction could begin.

The permitting process could last three to six months, she said, unless an EIS is needed, then it could take years.

Each plant would create about 400 construction jobs and about 100 permanent positions, 75 of which would be dedicated to gathering fuel, while 25 people would operate the plant. Between 80 and 100 truckloads of fuel would be needed daily and would be gathered within a 50-mile radius of each plant.

By Drew Foster, Tri-City Herald

For more information on Energy Northwest’s proposed biomass plants click the following NW Renewable News links below:


Flathead, Mont. lumber company seeking fed support for Co-Gen Project March 9, 2009

Filed under: Co-Generation,Montana,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 7:27 pm

Stoltze Land and Lumber company in Flathead County is trying to gain federal support for creating green, renewable energy.

The Stoltze company would like replace its 100-year old boiler with a cogeneration plant that would create electricity. The plant, using woody biomass, would supply power to over 10,000 homes.

Stoltze is contacting senators, representatives and local government to try to get financial assistance for the $54-million project. Stoltze Vice President Chuck Roady said the project would probably create and keep 13 jobs.

“This is the right fit for the area, it’s the right fit for the state, it’s the right fit for the nation actually, it is good clean renewable power that will assist in air emissions,” Roady said.

Stoltze is also negotiating with Flathead Electric Cooperative and Northwestern Energy about the energy project. –

Click here for a previous post from NW Renewable News with more information on this Co-Gen project.


Mont. Timber Company seeks city support for co-Gen plant February 25, 2009

Filed under: Co-Generation,Montana,Wood Products — nwrenewablenews @ 9:46 pm
Tags: ,

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 –