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Two biomass power plants may shutdown in Cadillac and Lincoln

Cadillac — Two Northern Michigan biomass plants that Biomass Powerplants turn Wood chips, railroad ties, and other wood residuals into energy, may be closing down.

The plants in Cadillac and Lincoln sold power to consumers energy. But their agreements are coming to an end, along with operations.

“And these are both like very critical for a number of a number of issues,” said Michigan Association of Timbermen Justin Knepper.

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The sudden announcement of plants to close biomass power plants in Cadillac and Lincoln has rippled across the state both on the environmental and economic fronts.

“All sorts of stuff that would maybe normally go to the landfill or just lay in the forest was turned into energy back,” said Knepper.

The Michigan Association of Timbermen says the biomass plants shutting down will leave them with two fewer places to dispose of material.

“Fire is a big one. When we have dry you know, there was a fire just last summer over by Grayling, actually a wildfire. And a lot of the work that’s done to clean up the small kind of branches, treetops, all the different things that can really dry out in dry summers and cause wildfires. Those items are used for biomass,” said Knepper.

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Not having a place to dispose the material can also impact the Kirtland’s Warbler an endangered bird native to Michigan.

“I think I heard they’re just the other day about 1,500 nesting pairs and it’s slowly recovering in part due to our really great partnership in habitat management,” said Knepper.

But it will also impact costs for Timbermen to dispose the material.

“The only way that worked financially was because we had these abilities to send that chipped wood to the biomass plants,” said Knepper.

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In a statement, Consumers Energy said “We take our responsibility to deliver reliable energy to Michigan homes and businesses seriously and are prepared to meet our customers’ energy needs with a variety of innovative solutions through our Clean Energy Plan. Meeting our aggressive reliability and affordability goals requires us to continue making purchasing decisions in alignment with our goal of keeping costs low for customers while making the investments necessary to build the grid of the future. Since last year, we have negotiated shorter contract terms with plants in Lincoln and Cadillac, providing a total of $40 million in savings that will be passed along directly to all Consumers Energy customers.”

The possibility of the plants shutting down also means lost jobs.

“There’s certainly an economic impact to the city. They’re both, you know, an industrial utility repair as well as, you know, a home for I want to say maybe somewhere between 40 to 50 jobs. So, we’re certainly hoping that those folks will be absorbed by other area companies,” said Cadillac City Manager Marcus Peccia.

“The site, I think, could potentially make a nice solar field I that’s what they’re looking at doing, you know, or maybe another company wants to move in and start the plant up as well,” said Peccia.

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