Loggers have cut off deliveries to a Maine biomass electricity generator because the company has stopped paying its bills, the head of an industry association said Tuesday.
Dana Doran, executive director of the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine, said loggers who provide wood chips and other biomass fuel haven’t been paid by the company, Stored Solar, since mid-February. Generally, he said, the loggers are paid within seven to 10 days of making a delivery.
He said the loggers, in response, are no longer delivering to the company, which has two generating sites in the state.
A spokesman for Central Maine Power, which has a contract to buy electricity from Stored Solar, said he hadn’t heard about the payment issue and couldn’t immediately comment on whether the utility is still getting electricity from Stored Solar, which is based in West Enfield.
William J. Harrington, one of the partners in Stored Solar, refused to comment when contacted by phone.
“I’m not the press person, but thank you,” he said, and then hung up. A message left with Harrington after that initial contact wasn’t returned Tuesday afternoon.
Stored Solar and another biomass electricity producer, ReEnergy, share in a $13 million state subsidy that is supposed to help support the wood products industry in Maine by providing another buyer for wood grown in the state. Most of the rest is sold to the state’s dwindling number of paper plants or sawmills, Doran said, and the subsidy is supposed to keep the balance of buyers intact.
Doran said loggers tell him that ReEnergy, which supplies electricity to the state’s other major utility, Emera Maine, in eastern and northern Maine, has been paying its suppliers.
The state subsidy is intended to help the biomass electricity producers bridge the gap between the higher production costs they face compared to companies that produce electricity in plants that use fuel such as natural gas.
Stored Solar has been involved with other business interests in exploring the possibility of building bioenergy parks in Maine, where all parts of a tree are used to make electricity, fuel, food, material and other things, eventually replacing similar products made from petroleum. Members of that development group, under the name Stored Solar J&WE, took their first step last fall by buying two idled wood-fired plants in West Enfield and Jonesboro. The plants were brought back on line, restoring jobs for 84 employees and 200 or so loggers and truckers.
Doran said about a dozen logging companies had been supplying Stored Solar. He declined to say how much they get paid for their wood chips, but said most of the companies are family-owned and employ between 10 and 20 people.
Without regular payments from customers like Stored Solar, he said, those firms might have trouble meeting their payrolls and their payments for equipment.
“There’s a great concern that these obligations will not be met and our members will be left standing at the altar,” he said.
Doran said he’s been in contact with Stored Solar, but neither he nor the loggers who have supplied the companies are getting any answers for why the payments have stopped and if and when the company will start paying the bills. So the loggers have reluctantly stopped making deliveries to Stored Solar, he said.
“We want companies like Stored Solar to succeed,” he said. “It benefits all of us.”
An attachment to the contract between CMP and Stored Solar, signed in late December last year, said Stored Solar is required to create 42 jobs, buy 500,000 tons of biomass a year and make $2.5 million in capital expenditures during its first year of operation. The requirement for the jobs and biomass purchases remains in effect for the second year of the contract, but not the capital expenditure requirement.
Those stipulations appear to reflect Stored Solar’s obligations to the state because of the subsidy.
Doran said he’s been in contact with Gov. Paul LePage’s office about the issue. There was no immediate reply to an email to the governor’s office seeking comment Tuesday.