Adage secures biomass supply in Washington

By Lisa Gibson
Posted August 19, 2010, at 10:58 a.m. CST

Washington-based Green Diamond Resource Co. has signed a long-term supply contract with Adage, a biopower joint venture between Areva and Duke Energy, for a proposed 55-megawatt woody biomass power plant in Mason County, Wash.

Adage will be responsible for removing the residue left behind by Green Diamond harvesters under the supervision of Green Diamond, the largest private forest landowner in the immediate area around the plant. Currently, slash left behind is piled and burned to clear the way for replanting, which by law must be done within three years of harvesting. "When we go back in, there's no room to plant because there's all this slash on the ground," said Patti Case, public affairs manager for Green Diamond. "So we pile this residue and wait until fire season is past … and we burn it in the forest." The slash piles contain limbs and soft wood that isn't usable, along with defective and rotten pieces. The new agreement will save Green Diamond the cost of piling and burning the slash, Case said.

The amount of residue Adage will harvest for its plant is confidential, according to Case. She also declined to disclose how many acres of Green Diamond's property will be harvested, but it will account for 15 to 20 percent of Adage's required supply. She did say, however, that Adage will have access to most of the company's land that can be affordably harvested for residue within a 50-mile radius of the proposed plant.

Forest owners in the state of Washington are required to leave 17 to 20 percent of the residue behind to protect fish habitats, streams and upland wildlife, according to Case. "Washington state has arguably the toughest forest regulations in the world," she said. Forest owners are also required to reduce wildfire hazards next to roads. "Instead of piling and burning, they'll be taking that," Case said.

Adage's plant symbolizes a $250 million investment in Mason County. It will be located in Shelton and is expected to create more than 400 jobs during construction and more than 100 during permanent operation, according to the company. Adage hopes to begin construction in early 2011, pending permit issuance, and will for the first time implement its partnership with John Deere. Earlier this year, the two companies announced an alliance to bring technology and process innovation to the fuel supply for woody biomass power plants.

Adage is also developing a biomass power project in Florida. The company faced effective, albeit small, citizen opposition at its proposed Gadsden County site of Gretna. After Gretna city officials announced in March they would defer decision on the plant for six months, the company suspended its air permit application. The city then answered back with a letter stating it considered the matter closed and would take no further action. Adage is still working to develop a plant in Hamilton County, Fla.