Cogen May Spin Again

The Loyalton Cogen Plant May Spin Again 092811


Plumas Rural Services has agreed to explore potential with Sierra Pacific Industries to purchase the Loyalton Cogen plant.  That the Loyalton Plant might spark again is news refreshing as rain to a parched and dying land.


According to local biomass mover and shaper Keith Logan, who is coordinating part of the process, the two entities are discussing a myriad of details, but the long and short should be that SPI could hand the keys to PRS.  At that point, PRS will create a totally green site, using electricity and hot water to add value to other products.  Biofuel is a real possibility, which would reduce both the cost and the carbon footprint of biomass brought to the plant.  The US Department of Agriculture has contributed to the effort, and readers will remember Glenda Humiston, who visited the county with information about USDA grants.  Apparently someone at PRS was listening when Ms. Humiston described the biomass incentive programs. 


Logan is optimistic, though he notes there are still a lot of details to work out.  He feels SPI and PRS have something to offer each other, and the chances of an agreement are good.  He notes that, if PRS can accomplish their goals for the project, it would be a template for other areas.  Michele Piller, Executive Director of Plumas Rural Services shares his optimism for the site.  “There is great interest in Sierra County with potential funders that a local owner buy this plant.”  She also credits Sierra Pacific Industries, current owner of the plant, who she says has been great to work with.  “SPI is a rural, Northern California Company, and they would like to see the plant remain in local hands, so the money from it stays in the community.”


Ms. Piller stated that, if the deal with SPI goes through, PRS intends to keep Jim Turner and the people who have worked at the plant.  “They have institutional knowledge” she says.  She also said that, if the deal goes through and Plumas Rural buys the plant, they’ll obtain biodiesel, perhaps from Simple Fuels, in Chilcoot.  She noted that SPI also purchased biodiesel from them. 


Michele Piller pointed out the advantage of having a non-profit purchase the plant is that they’ll use profits to support other non-profits.  She added that Plumas Rural Services is a successful non-profit, but they feel the reduction in available funds has awakened PRS to the need to provide more of its own funding.  The cogen plant is seen as an investment in their future. 


“We want to build a green industrial park on the site.  We have interest in doing heated greenhouses.  We want to encourage Sierra Valley growers to grow hops, and other value added crops.  Our plans for the site is all about agriculture.  Drying sheds, indoor crops.  As we market the industrial site, we would show the potential for electricity, heat and steam.  There’s synergy there.” 


Keith Logan has also been working on a biomass exchange system which would reduce the fuel costs on some biomass, preventing the problem of the truck driving past one biomass plant to reach another down the road.  Diesel is a significant part of the cost, and the carbon footprint, of biomass.  Reducing unnecessary trucking can save the producer and plant operator, and the environment, too. 


The Prospect is thrilled at the likelihood that the cogen plant will roll again.  A recent conversation with Jim Turner, operating manager of the plant, confirms that, though it hasn’t been on line, it’s been kept warm, and it’s ready to roll when the order comes.  Loyalton, jewel of the Sierra Valley and the county’s metropolis, has a realistic chance of not only surviving, but prospering, if the cogen plant can become the heart of a biomass industry.


Let’s all cross our fingers, and if you’re inclined, go ahead and say a little prayer.

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