October 18, 2017
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Subsidized Jonesboro biomass plant didn’t run at all in April

By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff
Updated:
BDN file photo | BDN
BDN file photo | BDN
Tree tops and limbs removed during log harvesting will be fed through a chipper and converted into chips for biomass. The chips will be purchased by various Maine paper mills.

PORTLAND, Maine — Stored Solar, a biomass plant that qualified for taxpayer subsidies has been offline for more than a month as the company says it tries to retool its plans at the facility.

Company spokesman Dan Cashman last week said that a boiler leak and wood supply problems during the muddy late spring led the company to close the wood-to-energy plant and analyze their operations.

Data published Friday by state regulators show the facility has been offline for more than a month, with no generation reported since March 23.

Cashman said in late April that the company has retained its employees during the shutdown. In order to qualify for a subsidy of $13.40 per megawatt-hour, it’s required to maintain employment of at least 42 people at its West Enfield and Jonesboro facilities, combined.

Loggers in March alleged the company fell behind on payments. The company called the problem an “invoicing dispute” and said in late March that it had resolved the issue.

The shutdown in Jonesboro comes as the company won permission from utilities regulators to change its subsidy arrangement with the state. Through that deal, the company will give back the subsidy money it had received and get back the cash deposit required to get those monthly subsidy payments.

[Regulators allow Stored Solar to return state aid deposit, take subsidy later]

Instead, the company would get its subsidy cash at the end of the year, after it shows it has met the employment and wood purchasing goals of the subsidy program meant to help preserve the in-state market for loggers.

The company also said that the amended subsidy deal would help it advance its larger plans to build out bioenergy parks around the state. The company’s principals are also working on a massive plan for a biorefinery in East Millinocket.

[Developers eye East Millinocket as heart of $240 million biomass venture]

Biomass operator ReEnergy also has two plants qualified to receive funds through the state bailout, at plants in Ashland and Fort Fairfield. Those plants are paid differently, with the subsidy depending on the market price at that point in time.

Over the term of the subsidy deal, ReEnergy’s plants have averaged far more subsidy cash per hour than Stored Solar. ReEnergy averaged about $483 per hour of operation at both plants; Stored Solar averaged $237.

The figures show how the downtime has also affected Stored Solar’s take of the subsidy, which lasts for two calendar years. The Jonesboro plant has earned it about $52,000 in subsidy dollars, compared with about $258,000 in West Enfield, through April.

But both of its plants would need to operate with no downtime in order to capture the full subsidy. They have a combined capacity to produce about 40 megawatts of power.

By comparison, ReEnergy amassed about $800,000 between its two higher-capacity plants in about half the time. Stored Solar began reporting subsidy-eligible output in January, while ReEnergy began in March.

 


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