Scotia Power Plant to Close; Around 30 Employees to Lose Jobs

Hank Sims / Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 @ 11:42 a.m. / Economy

Sad news from Scotia this week: Greenleaf Power, the Sacramento energy company that ended up with the Scotia biomass plant in the wake of the Maxxam bankruptcy, has announced that it will be powering down and laying off employees effective Nov. 1.

Frank Bacik, president of the company that owns the town’s homes and commercial buildings, tells the Lost Coast Outpost that he learned of the layoffs yesterday. He said that he was saddened to learn of the closure — about 15 residents of the town are expected to lose work — but wished to stress that residents and businesses should see no change to their power bill.

In a press release, Greenleaf Power cites three reasons for the move: An inability to secure stable supplies of wood waste to power the plant’s turbines, an inability to reach a long-term contract with PG&E and unspecified upcoming regulatory changes that the company believes might affect its operations. The former of these is a familiar problem on the North Coast: With the decline of the Humboldt County timber industry, businesses that grew up with a steady supply of waste product from lumber milling operations — biomass plants, cogeneration facilities and the pulp mills — have had a hard time securing sufficient fuel.

Greenleaf said in the release that it hopes to open the plant back up in 2013.

Apart from the loss of jobs, the closure is a setback for the town’s efforts to wean itself away from total dependence on the vicissitudes of the timber industry. It has recently lured a number of manufacturers to set up shop in town, including Eel River Brewing. “Diversification in the marketplace and the industrial base is a goal of mine,” Bacik said.

Renewable power advocates also have reason to lament: The closure takes up to 28 megawatts of locally produced renewable electricity offline.

Press release from Greenleaf Power follows:

We are saddened to report that the Eel River Power Plant in Scotia, California will shut down on or about November 1st. The decision was difficult but necessary considering the circumstances.

Eel River Power has worked over the past two years to reach a new long-term power sales agreement and secure a stable supply of wood fiber that would provide the certainty necessary to make significant new investments required to improve plant performance. In addition, Eel River is working to gain clarity on new State regulations that may materially impact the operations of the plant. However, until Eel River makes progress on these issues, the plant must be idled. Eel River Power will continue to address the challenges facing the plant and hopes to restart the facility sometime in 2013.”

Most of the plant’s employees will lose their jobs at the end of the month. However, a small crew will be maintained to oversee the plant.

Eel River Power understands that the plant is vital to this region of California. It serves as a valuable source of renewable energy, directly employs 32 people, and also supports more than 100 other local jobs.

The Eel River plant is based in California’s North Coast region about 30 miles south of Eureka. The plant was built in 1988 by Pacific Lumber. Greenleaf Power acquired the plant in 2010. The plant is capable of producing up to 28 megawatts of renewable green energy.

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