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Low Energy Prices Prompting Covanta to Close Temporarily 2 Biomass Units

Covanta Energy Corp. will close at least temporarily two biomass-to-energy plants in Maine because of slumping energy prices.

Morristown, N.J.-based Covanta will take operations at biomass plants in Jonesboro and West Enfield offline at the end of March, said James Regan, manager, corporate communications & media relations, in an e-mail.

“Unfortunately, this happens with some frequency in the biomass industry when energy prices are not sufficient to cover the costs of operation and fuel supply,” according to a Covanta statement. “We have experienced similar situations in the past and resumed operations when the economics improved. We will continue to evaluate the future of the facilities.”

The facilities employ 44 people total and produce a combined 49 megawatts of power, Regan said. They take in wood chips and other wood waste and burn it to produce electricity.

The Professional Logging Contractors of Maine said in a statement that the closings could affect more than 2,500 jobs in the state’s logging industry. The association called on Maine Gov. Paul LePage to bolster Maine biomass electricity production.

The announcement of the impending closings is a “huge blow” to the logging industry in Maine, which has sold woody biomass waste from logging operations to the plants for years, it said.

“This announcement should serve as a wake up call to both the LePage administration and Maine legislators about the dangers of inaction when it comes to formulating energy policies that will benefit our state’s economy, environment and future,” said PLC Executive Director Dana Doran. “This is a perfect example of an area where common sense needs to be applied to policy to consider the true cost of our energy, not just the price per kilowatt hour.”

In Canada GTA’s new incinerator is more than a year behind schedule, but it puts the blame not on energy prices but repairs, modifications and, most recently, the results of tests measuring toxic emissions and ash. The $289-million Durham-York Energy Centre in Clarington, Ontario, was expected to be commercially operational and able to process 140,000 metric tons of household garbage annually in December 2014.

But other waste-to-energy (WTE) projects are moving forward. Blue Sphere Corp. has secured financing of $3 million for future projects and acquisitions, including in the United States. In 2015 Blue Sphere broke ground on a $19-million, 3.2-megawatt WTE facility in Johnston, R.I., and on a $27-million, 5.2-megawatt facility in Charlotte, where it maintains its U.S. headquarters.

And Kennesaw, Ga.-based ABUTEC and Roeslein Alternative Energy, St. Louis, in a supplier/manufacturer relationship, are working with Smithfield Foods Missouri on a $120 million project to convert animal waste into renewable energy. The project is expected to begin operations by the middle of this year.

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