Mueller stated he plans on restarting the plant probably in September and bring the plant back to an as new condition. He said the utilities have not been kind to them, adding it is very difficult to get a power purchase agreement. Mueller said much of the work over the last couple months was to line up one or more customers. His goal was to sell first to customers: data centers, hospitals, and universities because base load renewable power is a rare commodity. Mueller said ARP is putting base load power back into the grid that is renewable, and it believes this plant will be commercial for another 25 years. He said most biomass plants have a 50-year life span and the Loyalton Biomass just turned 30. Mueller was confident with the quality of maintenance and even though it’s been closed for seven years it will run well. Mueller stated ARP will be connecting to the NV system and not within the California ISO network. He said ARP had to work with Nevada Power to get it to agree to create a new interconnect and transmission agreement. Mueller stated he was happy with where they are and plans to start refurbishing the plant starting in June, July and August. He was very excited not only with the community and the ability to access fiber locally but also the permitted business park in the facility. Mueller said the goal was to take the site and induce advanced R & D specialty wood products manufacturing and there may be opportunities for Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, UC Berkeley, and UC Davis to come in as they have special technology for wood products. He also hopes the park will provide training facilities. Mueller concluded by stating ARP wants to be a good taxpayer for the county and is hoping for guidance from the county for tax relief as they make capital improvements.
Supervisor Lee Adams said it was awesome to have them here, adding it was something the county has hoped for. He said the value of the plant is one thing but the value of its expansion is huge for the community. Adams said he would like to get more information on the kind of areas where the Board could legally help out. Mueller stated Supervisor Paul Roen had already directed them to a consultant who helped ARP apply for a competitive California tax credit. He said they have been through the first two phases and are in the final phase and should know results in the next thirty days. Mueller said dealing with the State has been difficult and he will be looking to the Legislature to find ways to help them. Adams felt ARP would have a champion in Assemblyman Brian Dahle. Supervisor Scott Schlefstein asked if ARP was working with Liberty Energy. Mueller stated Liberty Energy was an opportunistic buyer, and can’t legally buy from them. He said he called them first, but they are locked into a five-year agreement with NV Energy. He said he also spoke with Plumas Sierra Rural Electric who wasn’t interested. Mueller said right now they have a tender in the Southern California Public Utilities Association and thinks Placer County will use some of their power, too.
Mueller said the biomass will be employing 20-25 plus another 25-50 in transportation. ARP plans to run 24 hours a day 7 days a week and be a logistics and community based business. Sierraville District Ranger Quentin Youngblood stated he gave Jim Turner, SPI Manager, some updated capacity and availability numbers. He said having the Loyalton Biomass up and running is a “great marriage for the Forest Service.” Loyalton Mayor Mark Marin stated he was “happy as heck” and asked if ARP would be using local help. Mueller said yes, they would be using local help. Marin said he couldn’t wait to “smell the chips going in and out of the plant.” Mueller told
him the goal was to not smell the chips.
Victoria Fisher of the Sierra County Fire Safe Council asked if there was an opportunity for other fire safe councils to bring material to the plant. Mueller said yes, and they have already reached out to others. Fisher was happy to see this waste put to good use. Mueller said they have been individually reaching out to regional landfills to let them know that they will take clean wood waste.
Schlefstein asked if they have reached out to Union Pacific (UP). Mueller hasn’t had a good experience with rail, but felt it’s an asset. Turner said the rail line out there is idle, and considered inactive. He said SPI bought the easement from UP and would need a 10-20 car change over to make it cost effective. Mueller stated there might be an opportunity in conjunction with the county and the community to change it into a short line.
Adams made the suggestion to direct the discussion to the finance committee to see what some alternatives may be available. The Board approved it by consensus. Adams stated he also reached out to RCRC to see what ideas they may have. Board Chair Peter Huebner said their main goal was to get them here. Mueller’s only request was he doesn’t want to have to drive to Sierraville every morning for breakfast. Roen said, “You create the jobs, I’ll create the breakfast.”