ESCANABA - The site plan to convert Escanaba's coal-burning power plant into a biomass-fired facility was approved by the city's planning commission Thursday, bringing the developers one step closer to reality.
"This was a big step," commented City Manager Jim O'Toole following the meeting. "Closing will be the final step. Everything else is in place."
Since February, Escanaba Green Energy (EGE) has been in the process of buying the power plant. After several delays, mainly due to finalizing financing, the company is moving forward on the $1.6 million sale agreement. The deal could be closed later this month, said EGE President Charles Detiege.
If all goes as planned, construction would begin in April to convert the plant to burn wood chips with the $30 million project slated to be completed by December 2013, he told commissioners.
The construction process is expected to employ about 40 people. Once the plant is up and running, a total of 26 to 27 employees will be there, compared to the 19 working now, said Detiege. Another 75-100 spin-off jobs could result because of the biomass operation, he added.
Detiege told commissioners, he expects a steady stream of wood chips to arrive at the plant because of the availability of slash from wood-harvesting in the region. He anticipates about 25 trucks a day bringing chips Monday through Saturday. This could increase if federal lands become accessible to harvesting, he added.
Following a presentation by Detiege and a public hearing on the proposal, the commission approved a land use application for EGE to convert the plant and construct a fuel storage yard and a processing facility.