F-H Stoltze Land and Lumber needs to replace its boiler. Vice President and General Manager Chuck Roady says the Columbia Falls mill has been looking to replace the boiler for a couple of years, “we were researching boilers,” Roady said, “why not use that same steam, generated from boilers to turn a turbine, and make renewable energy.”
Stoltze recently signed a Power Purchase Agreement with Flathead Electric Co-op. Stoltze plans to install a co-generation facility capable of producing 2.5 Megawatts of energy to the power grid by burning woody biomass. “It’s wood waste generated from our sawmill complex, and from the forest. And that can be bark, it can be sawdust, it can be slash,” Roady said.
Assistant General Manager of Flathead Electric Co-op Mark Johnson says the plant will create enough energy to power about 25-hundred-homes. Flathead Electric purchases the bulk of its electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration which sells energy produced through hydroelectric dams. Johnson says both hydro power and biomass are base load power generation.
“Base load generation gives you a lot of flexibility, especially if you can ramp it up and ramp it down because, as we all know, when you’re talking about an energy distribution system, load has to match generation at all times; you can’t have excess load, and you can’t have excess generation, they need to match each other,” Johnson said base load generation is easier to manage. “You can throw more fuel on the fire, or let more water through the dam to create electricity where wind and solar kind of generate when they want to; when the sun shines and when the wind blows,” Johnson said.
Johnson said FEC will be buying the energy produced in the Stoltze plant at 9-cents per kilowatt hour. To compare, FEC buys hydro power for 3.5-cents per kilowatt hour. BPA put a cap on the amount of energy the co-op will be able to buy at the current rate, and Johnson says it’s closing in on that cap. The Co-op has been working on several small-scale Power Purchase Agreements with entities including the City of Whitefish which is putting a small hydro-electric plant online, as well as generating its own energy through a landfill-gas-to-energy facility at the County Landfill.
Chuck Roady with Stoltze says he expects the biomass project to employ 3 to 6 people, “it’s a good thing for Stoltze to have another way to say generate some revenue, but most importantly, it’s another way to utilize our wood waste. That’s a huge factor right there is to be able to utilize that in a productive fashion rather than just see slash go up in smoke from our woods in the fall,” Roady said.
The Power Purchase Agreement represents a 20-year partnership between the co-op and Stoltze. It’s set to go into effect once the plant comes online in 2013.