State Forestry Issues Revised Plan to Harvest Timber for Tok Biomass Project

Dec 19, 2012

A utility’s proposal to generate heat and electricity for Tok with a renewable energy source is moving ahead again now that the state Division of Forestry has revised its original plan on managing a long-term timber-sales contract that would provide the biomass to fuel the alternative-energy system.

Ground-up timber like this, which fuels a biomass boiler at the Tok School, would be produced on a much larger scale under a proposal outlined in the Division of Forestry's revised document on harvesting timber around Tok for a bigger biomass facility that if built would provide heat and electricity to the area.
Credit Tim Ellis/KUAC

State Forestry officials have revised and reissued a proposal to harvest timber in the Tok area for use in a biomass-fueled power-generating system that Alaska Power and Telephone has proposed to build to help hold down the cost of electricity in the area.
Tok-area Forester Jeff Hermanns says the revised document, called a preliminary best-interest finding, reflects a change that several area residents called for after the first version of the plan was released in May. Hermanns says the change would open up the bidding process for a long-term timber sales contract to harvest trees from nearby state forest land. The timber would be ground-up into some 35,000 tons of biomass fuel annually.
The first best-interest finding proposed allowing AP&T to handle the contract.
“We basically kind of went back to the drawing  board and took a look at that whole issue,” Hermanns said.
AP&T’s plans call for construction of a $15 million system to burn biomass fuel as an alternative to increasingly expensive diesel fuel, which the company now uses to generate power for its 800-some Tok-area customers, who are now paying 50 cents per kilowatt- hour for businesses, 31 cents per kilowatt-hour for residential customers.

'We basically kind of went back to the drawing board...'

AP&T spokesman Dave Stancliff says the utility has a long way to go before it’ll decide whether to proceed with the biomass project, which if built would make Tok the first community in Alaska to use a renewable fuel source to generate all its electricity.
But Stancliff says company officials are glad that Forestry moved the ball forward this week by releasing the revised plan to harvest timber for the biomass project.  
“Even though there’s no final decision yet, this is a very important step,” he said.
Forestry will hold public meetings next month in Fairbanks and Tok to enable more public input. Public comments may be submitted through Feb. 4.