City officials: Aspen Power closer to restarting

Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Two months after an Angelina County judge decided to allow the Aspen Power’s trustee to recommence operations at the biomass facility, wood chip conveyor belts were up and running.

On Friday morning, traffic in and out of the facility signaled a positive movement for the restart of the facility, and city officials said the movement is a good sign.

“We’ve been working with [NRG Energy] for several months and we know from recent conversations that they wanted to get it online in late July, first of August,” said Paul Parker, the city manager for Lufkin. “Hopefully, it will be successful when they have started the plant back up and hopefully they won’t run into any major problems with the operations.”

Once the biomass plant is back online, NRG Energy Services, LLC, a company out of Houston, will operate and maintain the facility, which is designed to provide clean, renewable power for the Texas market.

“We had been visiting and working with the bond holders and individuals that have been operating the plant to get the water, sewer and things of that nature on, and we are aware that they are planning to start back up and have been at least running their turbines to see how they function,” Parker said.

Back in May, InventivEnergy made the announcement NRG Energy would be taking over the facilities operation. This announcement came after U.S. Bank, which is the financial overseer for the project, filed a motion for an order authorizing InventivEnergy to restart and oversee the operation of Aspen Power.

Court documents revealed a major reason behind restarting operations was so the “trustee can demonstrate the commercial viability of the plant.”

"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."

The recommencement of the operations will not only bring new jobs to the community, Parker said, but will also be a positive endeavor to the city.

“[NRG Energy] talked to us in the nature of about 24 to 30 [jobs] at the plant, and also, there will be spinoff jobs from all the chippings at the plant, the harvesting of the wood from the forest, and for the chipping operations will also involve additional employees,” Parker said. “Anytime we add jobs back to the city, and we get an idle plant back in operation is a positive operation or positive endeavor for the city.”

In a previous East Texas News story, Don Poe, the president of NRG Energy Services, said his company was 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.

According to a June press release, 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.

Despite movement at the facility, calls into NRG Energy Services were not returned on Friday.

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