EAGLE, Colorado - On Tuesday, Eagle County commissioners approved a 10-year contract to accept ash from a wood-burning biomass plant that's being built in Gypsum.
"It will only be about 2,000 to 3,000 tons of ash per year - about 5 percent of what we receive - and this is not going to have much effect on the way we do business," said Ken Whitehead, the county's director of solid waste and recycling.
Whitehead said the 10-year contract was needed for Eagle Valley Clean Energy LLC, the company building the plant, to secure bank financing. The contract has a six-month termination clause.
The biomass plant will operate on property that neighbors the American Gypsum plant to the east, just north of U.S. Highway 6. The plant is scheduled to go on line late this year. It will produce 11.5 megawatts of electricity per year by burning wood material. Ten megawatts will be sold to Holy Cross Energy through a 20-year sales agreement, and the remaining 1.5 megawatts will power the plant itself.
Most of the wood fuel for the plant will be collected from forest lands surrounding Gypsum in a radius of about 75 miles. The Eagle County Landfill has also agreed to donate its wood waste to the plant, which is anticipated to save the landfill $15,000 to $20,000 per year in mulching costs. That contract is for five years with three five-year renewals.
Whitehead told commissioners the landfill will be paying for mulching again this year, however, since the biomass plant won't be operating in time to use it.
"I don't want to stockpile the wood waste this summer in anticipation of the plant," he said. "One match, and we'll have the biggest bonfire you've ever seen."
West Range Reclamation, of Hotchkiss, will supply most of the biomass fuel to Eagle Valley Clean Energy. The U.S. Forest Service awarded a total of $13.4 million in stewardship contracts to two Colorado companies in November. West Range will receive $8.66 million through a 10-year contract with the Forest Service. The company will remove trees susceptible to insect and disease infestations from the White River National Forest. The Gypsum biomass plant will receive some of that material as fuel.
Ash from the plant will go to the landfill unless other uses are found for it.