Although a lack of feedstock is a factor in the current shutdown of Stored Solar LLC's Washington County biomass power plant, the primary reason is a boiler leak that needs to be repaired before the plant can be brought back online.
"It was discovered at the end of March," said Dan Cashman, spokesman for Stored Solar. "They're working on repairing it and expect to be finished in the next seven to 10 days."
Cashman said that even when the boiler leak is fixed, the Jonesboro plant might well remain closed a while longer, chiefly because of "mud season."
"The supply issue becomes an even greater problem at this time of year," he said.
In the meantime, Cashman said Stored Solar, a subsidiary of the French energy firm Capergy, is taking advantage of the Jonesboro plant's shutdown to do maintenance and other work that's much harder to do when the biomass energy plant is in full operation.
He also said Stored Solar is working with loggers who provide biomass for the Jonesboro plant to resolve supply chain issues that predate its ownership of the two former Covanta Energy biomass plants that were purchased in October 2016.
The bottom line, he said, is that Stored Solar has every intention of reopening the Jonesboro plant once the boiler is fixed and loggers are able to resume full harvesting activities in the local wood basket.
"The owners are committed to working with all the stakeholders to reinvigorate the biomass industry," Cashman said, adding that they recognize how integral it is to the state's overall $8.5 billion forest products industry.
In an April 9 letter to the Maine Public Utilities Commission related to the company's March 28 request to amend its biomass energy agreement with Central Maine Power, William D. Hewitt of the Portland law firm Roach Hewitt Ruprecht Sanchez & Bischoff elaborated on the company's long-term goals in Maine.
"In addition to the acquisition and restart of the shutdown Covanta West Enfield and Jonesboro biomass plants, Stored Solar has brought thermal co-hosts in aquaculture and agriculture to build and operate in the state of Maine," Hewitt wrote. "The company has launched and completed a global innovation challenge, which has resulted in signed cooperation agreements with 14 of the largest biorefinery technology providers in the world to develop a cluster of a minimum of six biorefineries in the state."
Hewitt also wrote that Stored Solar had "developed and secured a prequalification for a $150 million U.S. Department of Energy loan to build the first biorefinery in Maine."
The rest of Hewitt's April 9 letter responded to comments filed by CMP and the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine with the PUC in response to the Stored Solar's request to amend its biomass energy agreement with CMP by deferring payments of its share of a two-year subsidy agreement until it demonstrates in-state benefits are actually achieved.
In December, the PUC split $13.4 million in state subsidies over two years between Stored Solar and the state's other biomass power company, ReEnergy Holdings, as part of a stop-gap plan approved by the 127th Legislature to assist Maine's struggling loggers who had been hit hard by paper mill closures and the closure of the biomass plants in West Enfield and Jonesboro by former owner Covanta Energy in March 2016.
Hewitt's April 9 letter acknowledged that both CMP and PLCM had expressed misgivings about making changes after a bidding process had been completed and awards made to Stored Solar and ReEnergy, but expressed the company's view that deferring payment on its share of the subsidy would not set a negative precedent.
"In fact, Stored Solar's amendment transfers risk of under-performing squarely on Stored Solar," Hewitt wrote. "In essence, Stored Solar will be performing without compensation [i.e. its share of the state subsidy] for an entire contract year, until the commission verifies the value of Stored Solar's performance. Accordingly, there will be absolutely no risk that Stored Solar will be overcompensated for in-state benefits. The complete risk of performance and payment will be [borne] by Stored Solar."