NRG Energy Services set to get Aspen Power plant up and running by late July

Aspen Power (Source: KTRE Staff)
Aspen Power (Source: KTRE Staff)
Aspen Power (Source: KTRE Staff)
Aspen Power (Source: KTRE Staff)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - In the wake of an Angelina County judge's decision to allow the Aspen Power plant's trustee to re-commence operations at the biomass facility back in May, InventivEnergy LLC has selected Houston-based NRG Energy Services LLC to restart the plant.

Once the biomass plant is back on line, NRG Energy Services will operate and maintain the facility, which is designed to provide clean, renewable power for the Texas market.

InventivEnergy is an asset management firm that is overseeing the plant. When Aspen Power started up on August 2011, it was the first wood-based biomass plant in the state.

"The Aspen Power facility was shut down in the fall of 2012 due to market economics. Since then, our projections show an attractive opportunity for the plant to resume operations and provide competitively-priced clean energy to the Texas market," said John R. Keller, the CEO and founder of InventivEnergy. "We are very excited to team-up with NRG in bringing Aspen back on line and combining its top-tier O&M capabilities with InventivEnergy's proven expertise in power plant asset management, value enhancement and optimization."

According to a press release, work to re-start the Aspen Power plant got under way in mid-May, and company officials expect the plant to resume operations by late July.

"If they are successful in getting the plant up and operating and adding more jobs back to local economy that's a win for everyone," said Paul Parker, Lufkin City Manager.

Don Poe, the president of NRG Energy Services, said his company is in the process of hiring the plant's management team and operating staff.

"NRG Energy Services has exceptional experience in renewable energy and fossil fuel generating station operations, and we look forward to working with InventivEnergy and bringing this expertise to the Aspen Power plant," Poe said.

The press release stated that the Aspen Power plant has the capacity to deliver approximately 50 megawatts of power to the Texas electrical grid, and it uses locally sourced, clean wood-waste biomass as its fuel. Aspen Power uses a stoker-type boiler designed to cut back on air pollution.

The plant can consume about 525,000 tons of logging debris and municipal wood waste a year, according to the press release.

"It will be very good for the city it will be probably in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 jobs starting off," Parker said.

Officials say right now two people have been hired and on Monday they will have a staff of eight and they hope to be fully staffed in the next couple of weeks. 

On May 12, U.S. Bank, the financial overseer for the project filed a motion for an order giving InventivEnergy authorization to re-start and oversee operations at Aspen Power while the property is for sale.

"What they're telling us is they want the plant operating so they can market it for sale," said Keith Wright, Lufkin's deputy city manager.

According to court documents, a major reason behind re-starting operations is so the trustee can demonstrate the commercial viability of the plant. In the motion, U.S. Bank says potential purchasers have expressed concerns about the plant because of the lack of operating history.

Wright said in a previous East Texas News story that having Aspen Power running is nothing but positive for the city's economy.

"With the plant operating they're going to employ about 26 employees at the plant which will affect our local economy. Also it will impact the fuel side, and that'll be another 80 to 90 people employed," Wright said. "The best thing for the city and the county is that this plant gets up. It's owned by a company who has the capital to operate it during those peak times, so they can make money at it."

Basically, U.S. Bank wants the plant operational to build a performance history for the facility, so they have data to market to potential buyers that will likely increase the amount buyers are willing to pay.

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