Biomass plant opens amid questions over long term fuel supply |

Biomass plant opens amid questions over long term fuel supply

Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer
photos by Jen Schmidt/Nevada Appeal Rick Becker of APS Energy Services explains how the Renewable Energy Center works before a question and answer session with the crowd.

An $8-million wood-fueled plant that will provide power to Northern Nevada Correctional Center and the neighboring Stewart Conservation Camp will start running today, but state officials say the project lacks a “long-term solution” for the wood it will need to power the plant.

During a speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, Pete Anderson of the Nevada Division of Forestry said he thinks a solution can be found but that the plant lacks one now and is “a long way away” from having the complete supply it will need.

Wood chips made from biomass materials collected from a Carson City landfill and from forests west of Carson City are scheduled to fuel the plant that will provide electricity, heat and hot water for the prisons.

APS Energy Service started work on the plant a year ago. State officials say the plant is good for the environment and will save money by switching from electricity and natural gas. At the ceremony and tour Tuesday attended by numerous government officials, officials went on to praise the plant.

While others agreed with the positives, they said there will be challenges getting fuel for the plant.

For instance, the plant might not be able to rely on getting wood from the forests, said Edward Monning, a supervisor with Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest.

He said funding the collection will be a “challenge,” because it could be too expensive to pay a company to do the job.

The state might get enough money from companies that pay to cut down forest trees for timber, but this is not guaranteed, he said, because the amount of money the state gets from those companies depends on the work site.

Monning added that there is a lot of competition from companies for materials in the forest and that his agency is “concerned that there is not enough to go around.”

Being able to fuel the plant has problems, said another Humbolt-Toiyabe National Forest representative, but it can be done with the right balance. Tom Baker said the landfill, Carson City Renewable Resourses, doesn’t depend completely on the forest for the wood it receives because it gets items such as pallets and stumps.

“This is a little like putting a jigsaw (puzzle) together,” Baker said. “If you ask what piece is important, they’re all important (in order) to get the full portrait.”

The president of the landfill, Stan Raddon, said he knows the site will be able to provide enough wood to fuel the plant.

A problem with that, said Lori Bagwell, chief of fiscal services for the Nevada Department of Corrections, is that the prison uses inmates to move the wood from the landfill, but can’t run that program during the winter.

• Contact reporter Dave Frank at or 881-1212.