Beaver Wood suspends development in Pownal, Vt.

By Lisa Gibson | March 21, 2011

Beaver Wood Energy will delay development on one of its two 29-megawatt combined-heat-and-power facilities in Vermont, saying there is insufficient demand for more than one facility of its type.

The identical facilities slated for Pownal and Fair Haven were to produce power as well as heat for internal operations of co-located wood pellet mills. Those mills were expected to together produce about 220,000 tons of pellets for residential and commercial use, according to Beaver Wood. Now, the company said it will suspend development of the facilities proposed for Pownal.

Despite the fierce opposition to the Pownal project exhibited in the community and across the nearby state border with Massachusetts, Tom Emero, managing director of development and operations for Beaver Wood Energy, said the decision to put the project on the back burner is not related to the negative local feedback. “I don’t think it’s local opposition as much as Vermont really seems to have an appetite right now for only one power project of our size,” he said. The Fair Haven project is still on track for completion in late 2013 or early 2014.

“We definitely aren’t experiencing the same level of concern at Fair Haven,” Emero has previously stated. “Vermont has by far one of the most aggressive permitting structures in the country and [Fair Haven residents] appear more confident that that aggressive structure will do a good job of ensuring that this plant is an excellent part of their community.”

Pownal is just 1.5 miles from Massachusetts, a state that has made itself known in the biomass industry for its loud opposition to any and all things biomass. But while a portion of the opposition has come from Massachusetts, citizens there are not responsible for the concerns of Pownal residents, Emero said.

Still development in Pownal has not been completely terminated, he added, even though no solid timeline has been established for picking it up again. “We’ll take a serious look at it after we’re done with the Fair Haven project,” he said, adding Fair Haven was chosen to continue because of its location and status in the development process. “Somebody has to go first,” he said.