New alliance announces first biomass project

By Lisa Gibson
Posted February 4, 2010, at 3:42 p.m. CST

The first project in a new alliance between John Deere and Adage-a joint venture formed by Areva and Duke Energy-will be a 55-megawatt biomass power plant in Mason County, Wash.

The $250 million plant will use woody biomass from local private forests, although Adage is still negotiating fuel supply contracts, according to Jarret Adams, media representative for Areva. Adage is in the process of finalizing those contracts, along with power purchase agreements, and expects to begin construction on the facility late this year, with an operation date in late 2013, Adams said. The output will be enough to power about 40,000 homes. "Most of it, of course, is going to the local community," he said.

In its first 2 years of construction and operation, the plant will generate $100 million in economic activity and create 700 direct and indirect jobs across the county, according to Adage. Once permanently operational, it will create a new economic incentive for revitalizing Washington's rural communities that will also help maintain forest health, according to Adage.

The Mason County region is heavily wooded and makes it a great location for such a plant, Adams said. It will be the third Adage endeavor, but the first in the Pacific Northwest. Construction on Hamilton Biopower, in Hamilton County, Fla., will begin this year, and Gadsden Biopower, Gadsden County, Fla., is in the early stages of project planning, as it was just announced in December, according to the company.

The alliance with John Deere will allow Adage access to woody biomass harvesting equipment that has been used in Europe. "The alliance is to bring new technology and process innovation for fuel supply," Adams said. The agreement allows Adage to incorporate the 1490D Eco-III Energy Woody Harvester into this and any future biomass projects. "The Mason County project will be the first to use the harvester," he added. Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Adage President Reed Wills, Jim Orr, director of worldwide marketing for John Deere Construction & Forestry, and other legislators and forestry professionals celebrated the alliance announcement Feb. 4 at an event in Olympia, Wash.

"Our alliance with John Deere will bring new innovation to the forest, enabling more sustainable biomass to be brought out of the woods and put to beneficial use," Wills said. "Expanding biomass utilization means healthier forests and new renewable energy, all while creating jobs in the forest."