Public meeting rekindles Minn. biomass plant talks

By Chris Hanson | March 06, 2014

Roughly 30 people from Red Lake Falls, Minn., traversed through harsh winter weather on Feb. 27 to attend a public meeting regarding a proposed $300 million, 30-MW biomass energy plant project.

“It was 26 below zero with 50-mile-per-hour winds and we had just under 30 people show up,” said Arden “Bud” Comstock, former Pennington County commissioner. “That’s pretty good turnout for a small town.”

Angel Alvarez, president of California-based, Vortex Energy Systems LLC, the company proposing to build the plant, said attendees were anxious to learn more about the project. “I was happy to see how hospitable they were. There was some discussion, and people have questions, especially when it comes to projects such as this.”

Attendees were a little bit cautious about the project, according to Alvarez. “They don’t want to overextend themselves,” he said. “We want to make sure we can be productive in their territory and bring some economic and social benefits to the area.”

The goal of the meeting was to share information about the plant, such as construction timelines and employment figures, Comstock said. Spreading the knowledge and timing have also been some of the greatest challenges in securing funding for the project, he added.

The proposed plant would pyrolize municipal and agricultural waste to produce oils that would power a generator or be cleaned up for biodiesel.  It would produce roughly 15 MMgy of biodiesel, Comstock said.  Carbon dioxide gases emitted from the process will be diverted to promote algae growth, while produced steam could be used to heat the municipal buildings or condensed for reuse, according to Comstock.