Colorado: Feds guarantee $40 million loan for Gypsum wood biomass power plant

Beetle-killed trees may help provide power in Eagle County.

New facility would generate enough power for 10,000 homes

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After years of talk, some of the high country’s hyper-abundant beetle-killed trees may yet be converted to energy after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $40 million loan guarantee to finance construction of biomass generating plant in Gypsum.

Various agencies and officials have long been talking up the idea of using wood from beetle-kill clear cuts and ongoing forest treatments for energy production, but those plans haven’t moved past the discussion stage.

Summit County explored biomass energy options for community buildings several years ago, but found that the economics didn’t work out. Wood biomass is commonly used in Europe on a community scale.

The Gypsum plan will generate up to 11.5 MW, enough to power nearly 10,000 homes.

“This loan guarantee is proof of Colorado’s leadership in innovative renewable energy technologies, as we work to modernize and improve how rural communities in our state receive their electricity,” said U.S. Senator Michael Bennet. “These efforts to diversify and clean our energy portfolio are a positive step forward.”

The grant is part of the USDA’s Rural Development initiative.


4 thoughts on “Colorado: Feds guarantee $40 million loan for Gypsum wood biomass power plant

  1. That is $4,000.00 per home for building the plant. What are the projected operating costs? How long is the fuel supply expected to last and what are the plans for the plant once the fuel is exhausted?

    1. Those are all really good questions, Roger. Just saw the brief press release yesterday, will try and get more info for a followup story. I know that many communities have asked those same questions and decided it’s not feasible, but there may be room for one large wood biomass using regional supplies. Even once the beetle-killed trees are gone, there will be, (hopefully) some ongoing treatments in the WUI that could provide a steady supply. How much wood biomass will such a plant consume annually, and does that pencil out with the expected supply … I don’t know!

  2. If you figure at 20 year plant life, that is $200 in cap cost per house. Figure $2,000 per year in electric bills per house, and the cap cost is 10% of revenue. Does not seen unresonable. Cap cost is not much different than for a coal fired plant.

  3. Not sure this is an economically feasible solution. Typical biomass power (via steam) is 20% efficient. This means that 80% of the energy is wasted. Is that the best use of this resource (it is a resource with value). With all of the natural gas in Colorado wouldn’t it be easier to produce power via NG gas turbine (electrical efficiency +40%) and convert the waste biomass into pellets and ship it overseas?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s