F.H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Co. in Columbia Falls will receive a $210,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service to develop and improve its biomass facility.
The grant award was announced Tuesday by Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester.
Stoltze’s co-generation operation will turn trees and forest debris too small for commercial logging into energy.
The Forest Service grant is part of an agency initiative to encourage the use of renewable energy resources such as woody biomass.
Stoltze’s biomass project will employ six people while supporting a timber harvesting work force of 65 to 85 contractors.
The company’s 2.5-megawatt plant is expected to produce energy to support 2,500 homes and improve air quality by reducing emissions and smoke from wildfires.
Construction began in mid-2012 for the combined power- and heat-generating plant at the Stoltze sawmill west of Columbia Falls.
It is expected to begin generating power by October this year.
The plant will burn about four tons of green fuel per hour, including bark, sawdust and slash that would otherwise be burned in forests with far more pollution than the co-generation plant will produce.
The plant will be physically dominated by two 82-foot-tall fuel storage silos and a building with a 40,000-pound boiler with a turbine generator and pollution control equipment.
Stoltze borrowed $20 million for the project. Flathead Electric Cooperative has agreed to purchase up to 2.5 megawatts of power from Stoltze at 9 cents per kilowatt hour.
Stoltze will sell all power generated at the plant to the co-op and Stoltze will purchase all of its power from the co-op.
“Stoltze takes great pride in strengthening Northwest Montana’s economy and being responsible stewards of the land,” Chuck Roady, Stoltze vice president, said in a news release. “We appreciate Senator Baucus and Senator Tester stepping up to support our biomass project, which will help us expand our business and better manage Montana’s forests.”
“This grant means real jobs that will help hard-working Montana families make ends meet,” Baucus said in a news release.
“This smart investment will help Stoltze put more Montanans to work by responsibly developing our natural resources and taking care of our forests,” Tester said.