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New Incentive for Turning OR Waste into Energy

July 12, 2010

LAKEVIEW, Ore. - Turning wood waste into energy and new jobs are the goals of a federal grant for Lake County in southern Oregon, in a project that's also being touted as a way to improve the health of the local forests. $1.7 million dollars of Recovery Act money is slated for a new co-generation plant, using biomass to create steam and power for the one sawmill in Lakeview that hasn't shut down. It is expected to create jobs at the new plant and also, through forest thinning and restoration in a county that's mostly federal forest land.

County Commissioner Brad Winters says it should be a big boost to the local economy.

"What that means to Lake County is huge. Lake County is 8,500 square miles with 7,500 people, so one job in Lake County is equal to a hundred in Multnomah County. So, this is probably as big a project as we could ever hope to land here."

The Lakeview co-generation project is expected to produce enough electricity to sell some to utility companies. Winters says it should have environmental benefits, as well.

"It'll help our air quality too, because it'll help take an old boiler system offline at the sawmill and put in the new biomass, which has all the up-to-date scrubbers and everything, which produces much cleaner air in our community. So, it's a win-win-win for us here."

Winters says geothermal and solar companies are also taking an interest in Lake County. A similar but smaller grant was given to a company in Wallowa County, and another to a project in Tillamook County that will use waste from a commercial dairy to create energy. As a condition of the federal funding, the projects have to be up and running by mid-February of 2012.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR