Nevada Prison Power Plant Idles for Lack of Fuel

CARSON CITY, Nev. — An $8 million renewable-energy power plant designed to supply two Nevada state prisons is idling for lack of biomass materials used for fuel.

The Department of Corrections has been unable to source an adequate supply of appropriate fuel, such as post-commercial wood or forest brush, since the power plant operations began in September.

Carson City Renewable Resources, which processes forest waste into wood-chips, contracted to supply more than 15,000 tons of material for the biomass plant. However, the plant has not operated for more than several consecutive days at a time, officials say.

The primary problem is lack of supply of biomass material from the U.S. Forest Service, officials say. The noncommercial-grade tree limbs and underbrush material projected to supply the plant are too expensive to transport to Carson City for processing, according to reports.

CCRR also receives post-commercial wood material, such as pallets and boards, from local manufacturers, but not enough to power the DOC plant, officials say.

However, the Nevada Division of Forestry received a $250,000 equipment grant that will improve the ease and efficiency of transporting forest-thinning material and noncommercial timber.

The state forestry division could then supply up to 50 percent of the power plant’s biomass fuel demands, officials say.

A pre-construction feasibility study concluded the proposed plant could be fuelled with unusable wood material from a variety of sources in the region. The power plant would generate energy and cost savings for the department, aid regional fire prevention and forestry management, divert wood waste from local landfills and generate revenue for the state through the sale of excess energy, officials say.

Designed by Arizona-based APS Energy Services, the biomass component of the plant — a 1,000-kilowatt steam turbine and integrated boiler system — was projected to deliver more than $9 million in energy savings, while reducing the department’s carbon footprint. The plant also incorporates a 30-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array.

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