The shuttered biomass plant in Scotia may shudder to life in the next several months.
Greenleaf Power, which owns and operates the plant, has been working with Humboldt County officials to increase efficiencies and get back online.
The plant announced the "difficult but necessary" decision to close in October 2012, citing lack of a long-term power sales agreement, uncertainty regarding state regulations, and the lack of a stable supply of wood fiber.
Greenleaf Power spokesman Matt Ross said the company hopes to have the plant back to full operation and employment in May, since concerns about new regulations from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board have been alleviated.
"Since that’s resolved, that’s one of the main reasons we can operate the facility," he said.
Water board member John Corbett said a citizen expressed concern about the amount of dioxins present in the ash byproduct of biomass plants. The board directed staff to look into that concern, which eventually was determined not to be a problem, according to Corbett.
"That got heavily perceived that they would take action," Corbett said. "The uncertainty about making regulations is what caused the concern." Other factors facing the plant remain.
"They have to deal - of course - with their own economics, source of fuel and adhering to the rules," Corbett said.
Ross said the Eel River Power Plant expects to hire more than 20 people. A small staff remained employed during the plant’s closure.
First District Supervisor Rex Bohn said the county building department has been guiding Greenleaf Power in ways that will help the Eel River Power Plant increase efficiency and operation.
Bohn said the Eel River Plant was having some wood waste delivered, and the county was helping with fuel flow issues. __Before closing, Solid Waste of Willits supplied the Eel River Power Plant with fuel materials, which helped subsidize the recycling company’s trips to haul recycling for the Humboldt Waste Management Authority.
Three years ago, the Humboldt Waste Management Authority entered into a five-year contract with Solid Waste of Willits, which underbid longtime contractor Arcata Community Recycling Center to process HWMA’s recycling.
Willits was able to bid low on the contract partly because it hauled biomass collected in Mendocino to the Eel River plant. When the Eel River plant closed, concerns were raised that costs to HWMA would rise if a contract with Solid Waste of Willits was renewed.
Solid Waste of Willits owner Jerry Ward said the company hauled a few loads of material to Blue Lake Power after Eel River Power closed, but for the most part, were driving empty trucks one way.
"We’re hopeful that changes soon," Ward said, adding that Greenleaf Power is coming to see if Solid Waste of Willits material meets its needs. "Assuming everything goes well, we’ll begin hauling." Ross said Eel River Power’s other issues are still being resolved.
Pacific Gas and Electric spokeswoman Brittany McKannay said a long-term power sales agreement is still being negotiated.
"While they continue to work with Greenleaf Power, everything right now is under that confidentiality agreement," McKannay said.
Bohn said the closure left a "big cloud" over Scotia, and was pleased to work with Greenleaf Power toward reopening the plant. __"That’s great stuff," Bohn said.
Grant Scott-Goforth can be reached at 441-0514 or gscott-gofor firstname.lastname@example.org.