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Alabama company buys closed Maine biomass power plant

By Anna Simet | February 17, 2017

An Alabama company has purchased a shuttered biomass power plant in Stacyville, Maine, and plans to restart the facility as early as June.

The 24-MW Sherman Station, built in 1986, has changed hands several times over the past decade, the most recent owner being Niagara Worldwide LLC. In a news release issued by the purchasing company, 42 Railroad Ave LLC, it said it had been in negotiations to buy the plant for four years.

Plans at the plant are to rebuild the turbine, activate new transmission lines, and build a rotary kiln to produce more than 100 tons per day of activated carbon, according to 42 Railroad Ave CEO Steven Johnson. “Sherman Power Station was constructed to be the diamond jewel of the industry, with an automated feed system and other state-of-the-art technologies, which have been maintained very well by Wheelabrator and Boralex, and when the plant was shuttered a few years ago, it was shut down properly, with all the infrastructure left in place to make the restart very economical,” he said. “In today’s market, the cost to build a biomass-fueled power generation station of this magnitude could easily be over $100 million, but at Sherman, even with installation costs of the new activated carbon rotary kiln, we’ll still be able to keep the restart budget under $10 million.”

Johnson pointed to the economic impact of the plant restart on the local communities, including Stacyville, Sherman, Patten, and northern Maine, an area where some foresters and wood fiber suppliers are struggling to find markets with the pulp and paper downturn and the closure of several of the state’s biomass power plants in recent years. The plant has the ability to take in 700-plus tons of wood fiber daily.

Johnson said the company has already begun the state repermitting process, and added that the new Executive Order signed by President Trump may allow the facility to fast-track the process. Other partners include Viking Green Energy Exploration and forestry expert and industrial developer Gary R. Lynn, according to Johnson.

42 Railroad describes itself as a company that develops heavy industrial and small town revitalization projects, and has a current focus on renewable energy.

A call to 42 Railroad Ave for further comment was not immediately returned.