Wood chips are dumped from a truck at Covanta Energy's West Enfield facility in this January 2016 file photo.

Here’s an early look at how Maine’s biomass bailout money is being spent

In January, two biomass generators tallied their first payments under a state subsidy program, taking in more than $241,000 from a $13.4 million pool of taxpayer dollars.

Published Feb. 12, 2017, at 7:42 a.m.     |    

Here’s an early look at how Maine’s biomass bailout money is being spent

Posted Feb. 12, 2017, at 7:42 a.m.
Last modified June 02, 2017, at 3:40 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — In January, two biomass generators tallied their first payments under a state subsidy program, taking in more than $241,000 from a $13.4 million pool of taxpayer dollars.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission last week published its first status report on disbursements from the fund that will go to ReEnergy’s Ashland and Fort Fairfield biomass generators and to the West Enfield and Jonesboro generators that Stored Solar has restarted after purchasing the facilities from Covanta last year.

At full capacity, the four biomass plants would run through the subsidy by next summer, but the first month of data shows they’re not running quite at that clip.

At noon on Jan. 13, the two biomass generators run by Stored Solar in West Enfield and Jonesboro maxed out production, delivering 40 megawatts to the grid during that hour, netting $536 from the subsidy program for the effort.

For the full month, including a period of no production from the night of Jan. 26 to the following night, the two generators earned about $241,120 in tax dollars.

The report is the first documenting the flow of the new state-funded subsidies to any of the biomass generators who have promised to keep employed 87 people for the next two years. Those jobs will support an estimated 196 elsewhere in the supply chain, including logging jobs, according to a ratio cited by the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine.

The two ReEnergy power plants in Ashland and Fort Fairfield are projected to take their first subsidy payments this month, according to the PUC records.

Both companies are getting paid using different methods.

Under its contract, ReEnergy will receive a fixed price of $46.50 for each megawatt-hour of electricity it produces. When the market price for its electricity is below that rate, the state fund will pay the difference. If the market price is above that level, ReEnergy would reimburse the state for the difference.

Stored Solar’s contract gives it a fixed subsidy of $13.40, on top of the market price, for every megawatt-hour it generates.

The average wholesale market price for Maine in 2016 was $34.71 per megawatt-hour, according to data from the regional grid operator, ISO-New England.

 

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