Aspen Power shuts down; won't likely power up until May

Danny Vines
Danny Vines

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The Aspen Power plant in Lufkin has shut down for a few months due to the low demand for electricity during the winter and likely will stay shut down until May, according to the company's president.

Danny Vines said ERCOT is only paying around $19 for a megawatt of electricity and wood costs Aspen Power $22 a ton to make electricity.

"I've seen prices as low as $7," Vines said.

Vines said he has had to lay off employees, but could not give an estimate of just how many.

Aspen Power powered up in August, becoming the first renewable biomass plant in the state.

"Oftentimes, when you have a new business just getting started, you'll have rough spots," said Jim Wehmeier, the director of economic development in Lufkin. "And hopefully, this is just a rough spot."

The 50-megawatt plant generates power from waste wood, selling electricity to the Texas power grid.

Vines said eight other plants nationwide are facing a smiliar reality -- sitting idle.

The City of Lufkin invested a $250,000 worth of improvements into the project.

Wehmeier says the city should not be worried about their major investment.

"It's difficult to run a plant when it costs more to generate the electricity than what you can sell it for at any period of time," Wehmeier said.

The plant officially closed early Saturday.

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