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Montana (U.S.) Co-op Co-operates With a Local Company to Turn Waste into Power

By Derrill Holly | ECT Staff WriterPublished: February 14th, 2012

A Montana electric cooperative has struck a deal with a lumber company that will help create jobs for its member consumers and supply a continuous source of renewable energy for the future.
New boilers at a mill in Montana will dry lumber and produce electricity for the local electric co-op. (Photo By: Chris Peterson/Hungry Horse News)

New boilers at a mill in Montana will dry lumber and produce electricity for the local electric co-op. (Photo By: Chris Peterson/Hungry Horse News)

This agreement is good for the community, said Chuck Roady, vice president of Stoltze Land and Lumber Company. “It will provide a renewable energy source and also help manage the forests.”

Flathead Electric Cooperative will buy 2.5 megawatts of electricity generated from lumber processing waste from logging operations in Montana’s Flathead Valley.
Stoltze has operated in the area since the 1890s, and the current mill, completed in 1923, has been upgraded continually.
When company officials considered replacing several old boilers, they included plans to generate enough electricity to handle the mill’s electric load, and offer the surplus power for sale to the co-op.
Directors of the Kalispell-based co-op agreed to a 20-year contract to buy the electricity at a wholesale rate of 9 cents per kilowatt-hour. While that is more than double the rate charged by the Bonneville Power Administration, the co-op is facing a possible cap of about 169 megawatts from its power provider.
“This purchase agreement adds to the co-op’s renewable energy portfolio without financially overburdening our members,” said Ken Sugden, Flathead Electric’s general manager.
The co-op recently added more than 1 megawatt of capacity from their methane gas-to-energy facility at the Flathead County landfill, and will receive 250 kilowatts from a hydropower plant operated by the city of Whitefish.
Boilers at the mill will be fueled by wood waste, including bark, sawdust, wood chips and planer shavings. Wood waste from logging operations will also be burned. The produced steam will be used to dry lumber in huge kilns, and generate electricity beginning in 2013.
“Stoltze will be able to maintain and add local jobs,” said Sugden. “Flathead Electric will be able to efficiently distribute electricity in our service territory.”

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