Biomass project heats up |

Biomass project heats up

Derek Franz

GYPSUM – The biomass plant is nearly ready to go, and Eagle Valley Clean Energy is already accepting job applications.

“Resumes are being accepted for positions that include plant manager, instrument and electrical technician, plant operators, maintenance technicians, fuel operator and an administrative assistant,” said EVCE representative Dean Rostrom. “We’ve been getting many applications, and it’s encouraging to see how much talent there is in the area.”

Meanwhile, construction of the boiler is nearly complete and will undergo testing in early November.

“We’re expected to begin testing during the second week of November, leading to very loud steam releases, called ‘steam blows’ that may sound like a jet engine,” Rostrom said. “Local residents should not be alarmed. This is an ordinary part of the testing process and will occur periodically during that week of testing but will not be regular as part of full-time operations.”

The plant will interconnect with the Holy Cross Energy power grid and start producing electricity in December. Construction will not be totally complete until April, however.

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First of its kind in Colorado

The “woody” biomass plant is the first of its kind in Colorado. It will produce 11.5 megawatts of electricity per hour by burning dead timber and thinnings collected mostly from the White River National Forest. Of the 11.5 MW, 10 MW will be sold to Holy Cross Energy through a 20-year agreement and 1.5 MW will power the plant itself.

“When this goes online it will put us over the top of our goal to have 20 percent of our power coming from renewable energy by 2015,” said Holy Cross CEO Del Worley in August when U.S. Sen. Mark Udall toured the facility.

“This will put us at around 22 or 23.5 percent renewable energy,” Worley said.

The state and federal governments are supportive of the project. The U.S. Forest Service awarded $13.4 million in stewardship contracts earlier this year, with a 10 year, $8.66 million contract going to West Range Reclamation in Hotchkiss. West Range will supply the bulk of the fuel for Gypsum’s plant.

“With modern mega-fires becoming a growing problem that threatens Colorado communities, our precious water supplies and our way of life in the West, we need to use every tool we have to reduce wildfire risks,” Udall said. “The Gypsum biomass power plant shows how we can reduce wildfire risks, create jobs and generate renewable energy sources.”

Other possible Eagle Valley clean energy projects

Eagle Valley Clean Energy is also in talks with the towns of Eagle and Gypsum about the possibility of collaborating on some projects, such as LEDE Reservoir (a project expected to play a big role in Gypsum’s future water supply) and collecting wood waste from dumping areas.

Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll said no agreements have been made official at this point.

Currently, road improvements are under way at the plant’s entrance on U.S. Highway 6, just east of the Tu Casa Mexican restaurant, and wood is being stockpiled near the plant for when it’s time to fire it up.

“We’re beginning to store some wood for the start-up,” Rostrom said.

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