Biomass plant plans revived

Amboy entrepreneur will pursue project abandoned by county

By Libby Clark, Columbian Web Editor

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Amboy entrepreneur Bill Kravas is pursuing Clark County’s dropped plans to build a 20-megawatt to 25-megawatt biomass power plant at the Chelatchie Prairie industrial park.

Kravas announced last week that his new company, Chelatchie Green Energy, has hired Vancouver consulting firm LD Jellison to study the project’s feasibility after Clark County commissioners decided to abandon the project last year due to budget concerns.

“We’ve had a lot of adversity but we’re making it happen,” Kravas said. “I’ve been trying to get jobs up there for 20 years.”

The facility, which would employ 20 to 30 workers, would burn wood slash collected from private forestland, leftovers from mill work and urban wood waste. Such fuel, which would otherwise rot on the forest floor or be burned in the open air, would instead generate electricity and add green energy to the grid.

To be located on about 15 acres of a 152-acre former sawmill site in north Clark County, which is owned by another Kravas company, Kravas Properties, the proposed plant would also produce steam that could be used by other industrial operations at the site.

But first, consultants must negotiate fuel source contracts with private landowners, find a utility to purchase the power at a competitive price, apply for and receive emissions permits, and address a host of other details that could hamstring the project.

A preliminary study commissioned by the county last spring found plenty of wood waste available in the region to power a large generator, said Mark McCauley, director of facilities and purchasing for Clark County. The county also estimated development costs of $69.8 million, which led commissioners to decide it wasn’t worth pursuing a project of that scale, he said.

“Given the economic circumstances and the credit market, we backed off the big plant idea,” McCauley said.

The county is instead considering building a smaller, 2.5-megawatt biomass plant to heat and power its buildings in downtown Vancouver — a project that could compete with Kravas’ proposed plant for wood fuel.

The Clark County commission will meet about that project in June.

In the meantime, LD Jellison is about halfway through its feasibility study and plans to complete it by the end of June. If Chelatchie Green Energy then decides to proceed, it plans to seek outsider investors to help develop the project. Construction would begin in about two years.