Breckenridge plant hopes to turn beetle-kill to wood pellets this fall
Summit County Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado – Negotiations are under way for a wood pellet plant to begin operation later this year along Highway 9 at the north end of Breckenridge.
The plant would take local beetle-killed lodgepole pine trees and turn them into fuel that could be used to warm nearby homes. Bill Nootenboom of Environmental Energy Partners said his company would take free drop-offs from residents.
“It’s kind of at the center of what’s going on with the beetle-kill epidemic,” he said, adding that the town “can also be a model for the world” in terms of an area “taking control of its energy supply.”
The company proposes to lease 5 acres of town property at 13541 Hwy. 9, known as the Alpine Rock mining property near High Country Furniture. The five-year lease starting July 1 would cost $100,000, payable in monthly installments, according to a draft of the lease.
Company representatives discussed the proposal at a town council work session Tuesday, where councilmembers asked about impacts from sound and other factors.
Noise testing is to occur before the proposal is approved, to ensure the operation isn’t too loud for neighbors.
“Assuming all the environmental stuff from them is accurate, then it sounds like a win-win deal for the community and them,” Councilman Mike Dudick said Thursday.
The next steps involve a planning commission development review and another meeting before town council.
Nootenboom said he would like begin on-site preparation work this summer and have the operation “up and running” by this fall or winter.
The plant capacity would be about 5 tons of pellets per hour, much smaller than pellet plants in Kremmling and Walden.
And while those plants have been hurting for business this past winter, Nootenboom said the areas where the most pellets are consumed – particularly the Northeast United States – experienced warmer temperatures.
“Sometimes there’s greater demand; like two years ago, they couldn’t sell enough,” he said. “This year there was more supply and less demand.
The proposed plant would run a movable pellet mill to turn logs into wood pellets. Most of the site would be used for log storage, and because most tree removal occurs in the summer, enough logs would need to be kept to make wood pellets year-round.
There would be about five semi-trucks bringing logs to the site daily, with three or four truckloads of pellets leaving per day.
There will be some noise from the chipping operation, but it’s not expected to last more than 4 hours per day during daylight hours.
The mill would run 24 hours per day when at full capacity, and all operations besides chipping would occur in two 5,096 square-foot tents.
The pellet-making machine works with steam to mechanically compress the bio-mass from the trees.
“This technology is used by the paper and pulp industry to remove water and separate fibers prior to the chemical systems that process the fibers into paper,” according to a town staff memo, which adds that the process releases only steam – so the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t regulate for air quality emissions.
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