Generations of sawlog harvesting can leave commercial forests choked with forestry leftovers: sapling-sized and
un-merchantable trees, which need to be thinned to make way for healthy growth. In January 2009, Grant County government began an investigation to see whether there was enough of this type of woody biomass in the area to support a pellet plant, and what that plant might look like. The Grant County Fiber Utilization Study took more than 4 months and enlisted the help of several local, state and federal agency employees, foresters and business people. When complete, the study was shared with individuals, government agencies, legislators and congressional delegates.
Because the county had a completed study, it was a prime candidate for support from the American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The pellet plant went into production in March, 2011, and is designed to produce approximately 50 tons per day of wood pellets and bricks. Pellet plant supervisor John Rowell reports the plant employs 11 people and supports two additional jobs at the chipping station. The pellets and bricks are marketed and distributed by Bear Mountain Forest Products of Portland, Oregon.
Modern wood pellet and wood chip fueled heating systems are capable of achieving particulate emissions levels that are 10-50 times lower than EPA certified wood stoves, without expensive secondary filtration devices. If lower emissions are required, flue gas cleaning systems are available that achieve particulate emissions similar to natural gas fueled systems. New boilers have been installed at the Grant County Regional Airport and the Blue Mountain Hospital. Both systems were purchased from A3Energy from Portland and will use locally produced Bear Mountain Pellets. The system at the hospital cost $411,000, and is projected to save approximately $50,000 per year in 2011 energy dollars.
Reprinted with permission from Grant County Economic Development and SolWest Fair