Biomass generator creates profit potential for Higland loggers

Monterey, Va. – The Meadwestvaco Covington Plant’s new biomass generator could lead to opportunities for loggers in Highland and Bath Counties. That was the message from Highland County Economic Development Authority (EDA) member Kirk Billingsley at the EDA meeting last week. Billingsley recently attended a meeting in Bath County with Meadwestvaco officials, where the new power plant was discussed.

“A few of us went down to Bath County to learn more about Meadwestvaco, they are doing a big expansion down there,” Billingsley said. “They are spending $280 million dollars on a biomass boiler for the Covington plant. The goal is for the plant to become self-sufficient in terms of energy production. The new boiler is supposed to power a 75 megawatt steam turbine generator. It will burn primarily renewable biomass. The interesting part for us from Highland and Bath Counties is how it may affect us. Their usage projections on fuel are 2400 tons per day and that’s seven days a week. They currently have an output of their own byproducts of 800 tons per day, so they are going to need an additional 1600 tons per day of biomass.”

Meadwestvaco will be looking for suppliers for the additional 1600 tons of biomass needed each day. If local loggers can set up a chipping site to process tree tops and other leftovers from logging operations, they may be able to sell that material to Meadwestvaco, providing some additional revenue and possibly some jobs to county residents. Meetings have already taken place between Meadwestvaco and some local loggers to discuss how they can take advantage of this opportunity.

The biomass generator will replace two older and less cost-efficient fossil fuel units and is expected to allow the plant to produce all of its own power. This new generator will also reduce ongoing operating and maintenance costs at the Covington plant.

In other business, EDA Chairperson Betty Mitchell discusses the EDA Technology Committee’s recent meetings with local internet service providers.

“The Technology Committee felt very strongly that 110 megabits of broadband by 2020 is something we’d like to have in the main business areas of the county, and then in the remaining part of the county 4 megabits,” said Ms. Mitchell. “They met with MGW, with Craig Smith and he says that he thinks that is possible. It’s all a matter of cost and the return on the investment.”

EDA Technology Committee members also met with Highland Telephone Cooperative Board members to discuss county internet needs. The Board members suggested that the 2020 goal was important and that they would keep the EDA updated on steps taken to improve internet service to county residents.

The Highland EDA elected officers for this year. Kirk Billingsley will be the chairman, Betty Mitchell, the Vice-Chair, Lloyd Bird the Treasurer and Sara Harman the Secretary.

The next meeting of the Highland County EDA will be Tuesday, August 14, at 7 pm in the Highland Center.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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