Biomass plant to close

Alexandria closure is hoped to be temporary


CONCORD — Indeck Energy's biomass plant in Alexandria will close April 30, affecting 16 employers and dozens of vendors and wood suppliers. But legislators hope to reverse one trend in energy markets in a bid to end the temporary closure.
Alexandria, a Lakes Region community of about 1,500 residents, is home to the 15-megawatt power plant fueled by biomass, the wood and organic material counted as a source of renewable energy.
"The decision to temporarily close was driven by revenue shortfalls created by the twin drivers of a really poor wholesale energy market and by low renewable energy credit market prices that really made operation of the plant economically unsustainable," said Richard J. Killion, managing partner with Elevare Communications of Concord, a marketing firm representing Indeck Energy.
Based in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Indeck Energy reopened the plant at the end of 2008, Killion said. "It had been mothballed by a different company prior to that when its power contract was bought out," he said. News of the imminent closure of the Alexandria plant fueled concern, although Killion said Indeck "views it as a temporary closure."
"They see the tremendous value and the possibilities of that plant. The only thing that is really hamstringing Indeck from having sustainable operations is just the depth of the poor wholesale energy market and the low nature of the RECs (renewable energy certificates) right now," Killion said.
A hearing at 1:30 p.m. today, Tuesday, April 11, in Room 204 of the Legislative Office Building will focus on a possible remedy to the struggling biomass market. The state House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee will deliberate on Senate Bill 129, which would raise the reimbursement to biomass power producers.
The state's Renewable Portfolio Standard law requires New Hampshire electricity suppliers to purchase renewable energy certificates, or RECs, from eligible renewable power plants for a certain percentage of the power they supply to New Hampshire customers. "It also requires N.H. electricity suppliers to make a payment to the state, called the Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP), for each REC the utility fails to purchase," according to the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association.
The bill, the New Hampshire Clean Energy Jobs and Opportunity Act of 2017, would increase the Class III Alternative Compliance Payment from $45/REC to $55/REC. "This will make New Hampshire's ACP values consistent with Connecticut and at a level that should produce REC values needed for biomass power plant continued operations," the association reported.
Killion said Indeck Energy supports the legislation.
"Unfortunately, It does not do anything about the low wholesale energy prices, the other driver impacting the decision to temporarily close the plant," he reported.
The New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association cited a study that found the direct economic effect of the state's six independent biomass electric power plants, as well as indirect effects on supply industries and "induced effect" in the service sector, accounted for 932 jobs and $50.9 million in payroll. The total economic output to the state's economy totaled $254.5 million each year, the association reported. The six biomass plants "contribute $7.3 million in tax revenues to state and local governments from all sources," the association reported.
In Belknap County, biomass production totaled 148,046 tons, and in Grafton County, where Alexandria is located, biomass production reached 199,985 tons, the association reported.
New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services also "supports the revision of the Class III Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP) to return the ACP to near its original value (reversing revisions made in 2011)," according to a Feb. 14 letter from DES to legislators.
Class III revenues decreased from $1,703,816 in 2014 to $174,240 in 2015 due to the reduction in the 2015 Class III REC requirement and the fact that the
New Hampshire Class III ACP rate in 2015 was closer to that of other New England states, according to the 2016 New Hampshire Renewable Energy Fund Annual Report.

County lawmakers still unsure how to fund corrections center

LACONIA — Nearly 18 months after unanimously approving an $8 million, 18,000-square-foot community corrections center, Belknap County lawmakers are wrestling with questions about funding the staff needed to operate the facility and provide programs for the inmates.
Belknap County Delegation Chairman Herb Vadney (R-Meredith) asked "Where is the money going to come from to run the corrections center and are we going to build a program we can't afford?" and said that ever since planning for a new jail started five years he has been asking the same question.
Vadney said he is concerned that, even if he county receives the $216,000 grant for programs that it is seeking for the next three years, at some point down the road funding for those positions will become the responsibility of county taxpayers.
His comments came at a Monday morning meeting of the Executive Committee of the Belknap County Delegation, at which committee member Marc Abear (R-Meredith) also expressed concern about the grants which are being sought by the Belknap County Commission for funding programs at the center and asked "How do we convince the public we're spending money the right way?"
Abear questioned the accuracy of the recidivism numbers for Sullivan County which commissioners have cited in support of the programs which will be offered at the new corrections center.
Vadney also said he is concerned by the tenor of comments made by Belknap County Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy last week that the commission is prepared to go ahead and hire additional corrections officers deemed necessary for opening the center even though the delegation had voted at one point to cut two of the the four which had been in the department's budget request.
DeVoy tried to allay Vadney's fears by saying that the commissioners planned to hire the additional officers but would seek to transfer funds from other departments and keep total county spending within the amount set by the delegation.
He said having a full complement of corrections officers is important to being able to receive the grant funds, which he said will be used to pay for the services of contractors who will provide the programs for those housed in the 64-bed corrections center, which is slated to open in September.
He said that a supplemental appropriation will be sought by the commission later this year to the county budget and indicated that the corrections department is about $250,000 short of where it needs to be.
DeVoy also said that, in the event the county does not receive the grants for the corrections center, commissioners will be prepared to present a plan for budget transfers from other departments which will allow programs to be offered.
He also said there is a possibility that some of the grant funding for programs will still be available to the county after the initial three-year period.
DeVoy recounted the arguments made on behalf of the $8 million community corrections center before it was approved and said programs are designed "to do something different with people who put something bad in their bodies."
Rep. David Huot (D-Laconia) said the idea of the community corrections center is to provide programs which help people with substance abuse problems get back into the community in positive ways.

"They are our problem," he said. "We can sit back and throw stones, but we can't take back what we've done with building the center."
Rep. Peter Spanos (R-Laconia), who took part in the three-hour meeting by telephone, said he understood when he voted for the community corrections center that there would be a need for additional staffing and that he supports funding for those positions.
The committee tabled a request from commissioners to transfer $61,000 from the contingency fund to repair a faulty sprinkler system at the Belknap County Nursing Home and defeated a request to transfer $15,000 from the contingency fund for debt service.

Trail run in Belknap Range set for May 27

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The Belknap Range Trail Tenders will not participate as runners in the scheduled race on May 27, but BRATTS maintains trails in the Belknap Range mostly on the eastern end and is the designated recipient of proceeds of the trail run. (Courtesy photo) 

Gunstock Spring Trail Fling organizer promises to donate to nonprofit trail group


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GILFORD — Embarking on the first event for his company, Fresh Tracks Racing, Andrew Hostetler plans to stage a trail run in the Belknap Range called the Gunstock Spring Trail Fling on Saturday, May 27.
The Gunstock Spring Trail Fling is promoted as an 8-mile, 2,200-foot mountain run or 5-km, 1,000-foot trail run at Gunstock Mountain Resort. Runners and hikers are invited to sign up for either the 5-km trail run on Gunstock's cross country ski terrain or the 8-mile mountain run on the Belknap Range Trail.
"I'm pretty confident that we'll have a good draw," Hostetler said.
Hostetler, 26, said he lives in Campton, in Grafton County, when he's not traveling for his job with Spartan Race Inc., an organizer of events such as mud runs and obstacle course competitions. According to his biography, Hostetler works for Spartan Race as a consultant on their obstacle races in the United States and internationally.
"Organizing these smaller events is kind of a hobby but something I'd like to turn into a sustainable business in the future," he said.
The plan is for Fresh Tracks to expand its schedule of races to support networks of trails in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and throughout the Northeast, Hostetler said.
"I'm a huge trail nut. I love trail running and hiking and backpacking," said Hostetler.
The Gunstock Spring Trail Fling promises to raise money for the Belknap Range Trail Tenders, or BRATTS, an independent volunteer-supported trail maintenance organization (
Daniel Tinkham, president of BRATTS, said Hostetler came to a BRATTS meeting a few months ago and asked if the club was interested in "being the recipient of any donation that he might be able to do."
During a talk with the Gilford Conservation Commission on April 4, Tinkham said BRATTS did not plan to be involved in the May 27 trail race other than positioning volunteers with literature at the trailhead. The conservation commission welcomed Hostetler to appear and make a presentation about the race.
In a blog post from October, Hostetler wrote that he was scoping out the course. The 8-mile race route, he wrote, will start at the base of Gunstock Mountain Resort's ski slopes "and take runners along wide XC trails before climbing up to and along the ridge linking Mts. Rowe (1,680 ft) and Gunstock (2,250 ft). Runners will climb a total of approximately 2,200 feet along this course. The race will finish with a challenging single track descent back to the base. The 5 km race route will start and finish at the same point as the 8-mile and take runners along Gunstock's XC and single track snowshoe trails."
Initially, Hostetler envisioned an April 1 race.
Tinkham said, "I told him we can't commit any help on the trail race, and he said he'd take care of it completely. We helped him try to pick a date that was more reasonable than his original date, which was April 1, which would have been quite a show this year with the snowstorm this past Saturday."
Douglas Hill, Gilford Conservation Commission member, said, "This all came to our attention with the notion that it was going to be done on April 1. Whether that was a joke, I'm not sure. It would have been a joke if they had tried to do it. It's pretty gnarly up there. I was actually up there on part of that on April 1. It would have been an interesting place to run. You could barely work it with snowshoes."
Hostetler conceded, "April 1 just would have been terrible," but he said his vision is for a series of trail runs corresponding with the seasons.
"My hope is that we'll have four races a year, one in each season, at Gunstock. A seasonal series of races," he said.
"The plan is for each of those events to contribute to BRATTS and just help sustain those trails around there," Hostetler said.
Registration fees will cover the costs of staging the event, but Hostetler hoped for 100 participants in the May 27 event to break even. Proceeds beyond that were promised to BRATTS.
"Organizing events like this, maybe other activities like ultras and tours, I'd like the proceeds of those events to go toward the maintenance of those trails and also advocacy," he said.
In July, Hostetler plans to host a trail run at Gunstock, one of his favorite places to recreate.
"We're working on another one for this summer, and I'm working with Gunstock to try to put on two more for the fall and the winter," he said.
The Belknap Range Trail extends from the Gunstock Mountain Resort to the Mt. Major parking area, with a 12.2-mile classical route that encounters eight of the region's 12 mountain peaks, according to the site,
Hostetler described the range as a hiking destination "stitched together with 68 miles of trails suited to both novice and avid hikers alike."
Fresh Tracks Racing plans to hand out samples and prizes contributed by local health food company BeGoodBar. Other supporting companies include Wild Northeast magazine and Maine-based equipment producer STABIL. ReVision energy will also be on hand at the event with their solar energy products, Hostetler said.
Anyone interested in the Gunstock Spring Trail Fling is urged to visit