PORTLAND, Maine — Investors hoping to revitalize Maine’s forest products and wood-to-energy industries say their vision won’t involve asking for more financial help from state or local governments.
Stored Solar plans to put together its latest Maine investment with a blend of private money and a federally backed loan for energy projects to get a $240 million biorefinery off the ground in East Millinocket.
“We will not be asking for any assistance from state or local taxpayers,” Dan Cashman, a spokesman for Stored Solar, wrote in an email.
In applications for its federal loans, the company has listed the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development as a partner, and it has so far received $50,000 from the Maine Technology Institute to help prepare that loan application for EMEP LLC, a joint venture led by Stored Solar.
In court documents, EMEP LLC touted support from the town of East Millinocket, Maine’s congressional delegation and Gov. Paul LePage’s office.
The company estimates the biorefinery would employ 102 people. LePage sees their project as “a concept to reinvent the forest products industry using Maine’s resources and new technologies,” according to spokesman Peter Steele.
The company’s statement that it won’t ask for more help from state or local taxpayers to get its project off the ground comes after Stored Solar secured millions of dollars in government subsidies through an aid program for its biomass plants in West Enfield and Jonesboro.
The company hopes that biomass subsidy can serve as a bridge to converting those plants into bio-energy parks that can help prove its model for turning a profit with biomass, a challenging industry in the face of cheap oil.
It ran into an early hurdle in Jonesboro, where what the company called an “invoicing dispute” led to allegations from loggers that they weren’t being paid. The Jonesboro plant spent days offline in March, according to data from state regulators.
The company’s now working on its vision to turn those plants into bioenergy parks, which would involve finding customers who could locate at the site and use waste heat from the biomass plants and other products.
Meanwhile, the company’s plans in East Millinocket remain on hold, however, until a legal dispute is resolved between Stored Solar’s related venture EMEP LLC and the current owners of the former mill site, North American Recovery Management.
EMEP LLC is a partnership between Stored Solar SAG Realty owner Scott Gardner, who also helps oversee the timber and trucking company that his father started. Gardner’s company owns timberland in Maine’s North Woods.
Cashman confirmed the company will need to buy the property before it files the next phase of its loan application with the U.S. Energy Department.
EMEP contends that it has a right to purchase the property for $1.75 million and has sued the seller to force the deal. The seller argues EMEP did not provide a valid purchase-and-sale agreement.
Earlier this month, the seller filed a counterclaim arguing that it has lost out on other opportunities to sell the property because of EMEP’s court battle.
The parties are scheduled to meet again in court on May 12 for a hearing on EMEP’s motion for a preliminary injunction.