August 17, 2019
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Jonesboro biomass plant misses out on a second full month of subsidies

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Covanta Energy's West Enfield facility Thursday. The facility burns biomass to generate electricity and the company decided to shoot down the West Enfield and Jonesboro locations due to low energy prices.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Jonesboro biomass plant spent its second full month offline in May, after the company said in late March that a boiler leak and continuing shortage of wood supply posed challenges for the facility.

Regulatory records show the Jonesboro plant has been offline for 10 straight weeks. Dan Cashman, a company spokesman, said the company remained offline to continue to build up supply and try to find a long-term solution to wood supply issues that he said also existed for the previous owner, Covanta.

“They just want to make sure they have enough to hit the ground running,” Cashman said, noting that the company brought on a new supplier this week.

The company’s Jonesboro plant was one of three to qualify for a portion of a $13.4 million state subsidy meant to keep the biomass generators afloat and thereby keep open a market for loggers.

[Maine’s $13M bailout of biomass plants will mean jobs, but at a cost of $23,700 each]

The prolonged Jonesboro shutdown means lost time for Stored Solar under the subsidy arrangement, which delivers above-market rates to the plant for two years. The company’s West Enfield facility and ReEnergy’s plants in Ashland and Fort Fairfield also qualified.

In the first two months of operation, the Jonesboro plant netted about $133,000 in subsidy payments, above the market price it received for the power it generated. The plant had some outages in those months, but ran fairly consistently.

The company’s West Enfield plant ran more consistently in May than in previous months, generating about another $150,000 in above-market payments.

The total subsidy receipts could change at the end of the year. Originally, Stored Solar was getting paid monthly based on its output, but regulators agreed to let it collect the subsidy at the end of the year. The company’s subsidy payment will depend on whether it meets certain employment and in-state wood purchasing requirements.

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

The deal requires Stored Solar to employ 42 people between both plants, buy at least 500,000 tons of Maine wood and invest $2.5 million into the facilities.

Cashman said that Stored Solar has kept employment above 42 people despite the Jonesboro shutdown. He said the company did not have a specific timeline for restarting the facility.

 



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