N.M. biomass plant moves forward with help of city commission

By Erin Voegele | January 17, 2013

The Alamogordo, N.M. city commission has issued a letter of support for a proposed 20 MW biomass power plant under development by New Generation Biomass LLC. The facility, known as the Black Bear Biomass plant, would be located on New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base.

In late 2012, the U.S. Air Force issued a statement announcing that it had entered into a license agreement with New Generation Biomass to explore the development of a biomass facility at the base. The license grants New Generation Biomass limited access to approximately 80 acres of land. Power produced at the facility would be provided to the El Paso Electric grid, from which the base purchases its power.

According to Albert Rettenmaier, president and CEO of New Generation Biomass, the facility would help the Air Force meet its renewable energy goals. The plant would also contribute to meeting New Mexico’s renewable portfolio standard, which requires renewable energy to comprise 15 percent of the state’s energy mix by 2015.

In the letter of support, the city commission noted that New Generation Biomass has committed a great deal of time, effort and money to developing the project in response to the request for proposals (RFP) issued by El Paso Electric in early 2011. The letter goes on to note that the project would bring tremendous benefit to Alamogordo and the state of New Mexico, including the creation of 80 full-time jobs, more than 300 construction jobs and the investment of $70 million.

Rettenmaier said that the facility will take in forest thinnings from Lincoln National Forest, orchard prunings and locally-sourced green waste as feedstock. In its letter, the city commission stressed that the project would create a forest fire reduction thinning biomass market for management in the Lincoln National Forest and surrounding state forest lands. The plant is expected to procure more than $4 million in biomass each year.

“It is our objective to see that the facility be included in future renewable energy plans, including 2015 when the renewable energy requirements under the Act increase by 50 percent,” states the letter. “Black Bear Biomass is a perfect fit to meet this requirement, to do so at a lower price than other renewable energy options…and to satisfy the diversity requirements in Rule 572. Note that this is baseload energy, which also provides energy security to Holloman AFB.”

According to Rettenmaier, letters like this help his company make its case to the various state entities, including the Public Regulatory Commission and governor’s office. In addition to the city council, the state’s Secretary of Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources and the Air Force have issued letters in support of the project. Rettenmaier also said the county is expected to issue a statement in support of the project.  

Rettenmaier adds that the support of the local community is one of the most important aspects of developing projects like the Black Bear Biomass plant. This type of support helps with public perception and engages the stakeholders in a way that helps move the project forward, he said.

The next step for the facility is to gain approval from the Public Regulatory Commission. Construction on the project is expected to start in 2013, with startup currently planned for 2015.