Loyalton biomass plant shuts down, effective immediately | SierraSun.com

Loyalton biomass plant shuts down, effective immediately

Greyson Howard
Sierra Sun

LOYALTON, Calif. and#8212; Sierra Pacific Industries announced Friday that its biomass plant in Loyalton is shutting down, effective immediately.

The timber company, Californiaand#8217;s largest private land holder, cited decreased electricity rates from NV Energy and#8212; which buys the power generated by burned biomass (timber and plant material diverted from landfills and generated by forest thinning projects) and#8212; and apparent smaller timber sales from the U.S. Forest Service.

and#8220;Weand#8217;ve been losing money since June 1,and#8221; said Mark Pawlicki, spokesman for Sierra Pacific Industries.

The plant had just reopened at the beginning of the year, after closing Sept. 12, 2009, citing tough economic conditions. It reopened after renegotiating rates with NV Energy, and as transportation costs (bringing in the biomass) went down.

A Friday press release from Sierra Pacific stated the forest service failed to carry out its legally mandated timber sales.

Phone calls to officials from Tahoe National Forest and the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit were not returned late Friday for this story.

The closure means 15 of the plantand#8217;s 20 employees have been given notice, Pawlicki said, with the other five staying on for maintenance, as the company is exploring options to reopen the plant down the road.

The plant has the capacity to generate 20 megawatts, and has averaged about 16, Pawlicki said, selling the power to NV Energy.

The plant took in about 120,000 tons of biomass a year, about half diverted from landfills, and much of it from forest thinning and fire prevention projects in the greater Tahoe area.

Look for more to this story next week at http://www.sierrasun.com.