ReEnergy to resume operations at Ashland facility

10 years ago

ASHLAND, Maine — Officials with ReEnergy Holdings announced Monday plans to resume operations at its biomass-to-energy facility in Ashland.
“We are very pleased to be resuming operations of this critical energy asset,” said ReEnergy Chief Executive Officer Larry D. Richardson. “This will restore jobs, improve forest health and enhance reliability and stability in the delivery of electricity in northern Maine. This was only possible through the collaboration and support of key stakeholders.”
The 39-megawatt Ashland facility generates renewable energy from forest residue biomass and unadulterated wood. Richardson noted it is capable of producing approximately 284,000 MWh of electricity each year — enough to supply nearly 37,000 homes. The facility, which opened in 1993, was acquired by ReEnergy Holdings in December 2011 as part of a multi-facility portfolio purchase from Boralex Industries Inc. It has been idle since March 2011. It is anticipated that the facility will be fully operational by December.
Elected officials welcomed the news that a long-dormant business will now be bringing much-needed jobs to the region and producing “green” energy.
“This is terrific news for Aroostook County,” said Gov. Paul R. LePage. “I thank ReEnergy for their investment and congratulate them on the decision to restart operations. My team has worked proactively with the company over the last few years in an effort to get where we are today. This is what happens when government partners with the private sector in efforts to improve our economy for the benefit of all Mainers. ReEnergy’s decision is further proof Maine’s economy is headed in the right direction.”
Several members of the LePage Administration, including Energy Director Patrick Woodcock and forest products adviser Rosaire Pelletier, played a significant role in helping ReEnergy identify and gain access to the resources needed to help get this plant back up and running. Specifically, the Administration initiated a discussion with Emera Maine to determine whether the facility could be a part of an effort to bolster reliability in the region in the medium term, while a plan for long-term reliability is considered by the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
Sen. Susan Collins said, “The reopening of the Ashland biomass facility is welcome news for the important jobs it will restore and the renewable energy it will generate. The forest economy is a tremendous asset in our state and biomass plants like the one in Ashland play a vital role.”
Sen. Angus King said this was terrific news for Ashland and Aroostook.
“While this reopening means more jobs and economic growth, it is also a critical development for the entire forest products industry and will add sustainable, reliable generation to the northern Maine (power) grid,” said King.
Sarah Boggess, spokesperson for ReEnergy Holdings, said the facility will have a significant impact in northern Maine.
“The resumption of operations will restore 25 well-paying direct jobs and an estimated 150 indirect jobs associated with the facility, many of them related to the supply of the forest residue fuel supply to the facility and additional jobs tied to local goods and services related to the facility,” said Boggess.
At full production levels, the facility purchases more than $16 million annually in fuel from local loggers. When considering the payrolls of the direct and indirect jobs along with taxes paid by ReEnergy in Ashland, the annual economic impact on the region is well in excess of $20 million, according to Boggess.
Ashland Town Manager Ralph Dwyer is pleased the facility will be up and running in the near future.
“ReEnergy’s plans to restart the power plant in Ashland is great news for the community,” said Dwyer. “It will create many well-paying jobs at the plant as well as other indirect jobs supplying the facility with biomass fuel. The town of Ashland appreciates ReEnergy’s commitment to our community and we look forward to seeing the plant in operation again.”
ReEnergy has achieved certification to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) Standard for the facilities that are currently operating in Maine and New York. ReEnergy will seek similar certification for the Ashland facility, and this certification will provide third-party verification that the company’s biomass procurement program promotes land stewardship and responsible forestry practices, noted Boggess. ReEnergy is the first company solely devoted to electricity production to be certified to the SFI Standard.
Boggess said ReEnergy’s strategy is to “own and operate facilities in regions capable of supplying raw materials while simultaneously ensuring the long-term sustainability of the forests where those facilities are located.”
The company owns and operates three biomass-to-energy facilities in Maine: ReEnergy Stratton (48 MW); ReEnergy Livermore Falls (39 MW); and ReEnergy Fort Fairfield (37 MW). ReEnergy also owns and operates a facility in Lewiston that processes construction and demolition material. With Ashland operating, ReEnergy will employ more than 140 people in Maine and support more than 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.
“This is great news for the town of Ashland and another sign of the positive things that are happening in Aroostook County’s forest economy,” said Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council.
Biomass-to-energy offers substantial long-term employment and positive economic impacts. With in-state equipment manufacturing, fuel harvesting, processing and jobs from facility construction to ongoing boiler service, the bioenergy industry contributes significantly to the state’s economy.
“As a rule of thumb, each megawatt of biomass-fueled electricity supports approximately five full time jobs: one direct job in the biomass facility, and four indirect jobs in surrounding forests and communities,” noted Boggess.
The Ashland facility has been idle since March 2011 due to market conditions. The restart has been made possible due to a confluence of factors, including an increase need for electric grid stability in northern Maine, availability of transmission capacity, a growing need for a local outlet for mill and forest residues, and energy market changes.
According to Boggess, the facility has been maintained in a manner that will allow for a prompt return to its previous high standard of reliability, but several months of preparation will be necessary to hire and re-hire employees, build fuel supply and assess and re-tune equipment.