Vail biomass project not dead yet | VailDaily.com

Vail biomass project not dead yet

Lauren Glendenning
lglendenning@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – A woody biomass facility in Vail doesn’t appear to be moving forward after losing out on more than $20 million in funding June 30.

The U.S. Department of Energy had $140 million in grants available for heat and power technology development, but selected six projects for financial awards totaling $21 million.

It means there’s still money available, which “would lead one to believe (the Department of Energy) would fund other projects,” Vail Town Manager Stan Zemler said.

“They would go through another process, so whether we would participate in that process remains to be seen,” Zemler said.

The town of Vail had been working with Andrew King, of Hayden, Cary and King Co., the developer for the proposed Vail biomass plant, on the project that would turn beetle-killed pine trees in local forests into energy.

Without the Department of Energy grant, the town of Vail and King are looking at some other details in the proposed project to see if they can cut costs.

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Kristen Bertuglia, the town of Vail’s environmental sustainability coordinator, said a U.S. Forest Service report on the biomass supply in the region could help determine things like whether the facility’s boiler is properly sized.

“Even though preliminary analysis show that there is available wood, the economics need to consider accessibility, distance, wilderness areas versus non-wilderness, fire hazards and defensible space areas,” Bertuglia said. “Answering these questions will make funding the project a little easier.”

King said there are enough beetle-killed trees nearby to keep the biomass facility operating. He told the Vail Town Council in May that the facility’s environmental benefits are the focus of the project above anything else.

“This facility is not a power plant,” King said. “It’s all about forest health, and energy is the byproduct.”

King said he plans to work with private investors, the U.S. Forest Service, town of Vail, Holy Cross Energy and other stakeholders to keep the momentum and identify other potential funding opportunities. Some other options include going after other federal grants or U.S. Department of Agriculture guaranteed loans.

Bertuglia said the town is still interested in gathering public input on the project. The town has also been talking to other stakeholders, like Colorado Wild and Wilderness Workshop, about the future of the project should enough funding become available.

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or lglendenning@vaildaily.com.