From the outside, Simpson Tacoma Krafts Tideflats pulp mill with its industrial age profile, outsized machinery and roaring boilers seems an unlikely place to find the latest in environmentally friendly technology.
But the pulp mills pioneering renewable energy plant is significant enough to attract the federal Department of Energys number two executive for a personal tour on Thursday.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman came to Tacoma specifically to view Simpsons 3-year-old green energy generation plant.
That plant burns wood wastes and byproducts from the pulp and paper-making business to create steam to power the plant and to generate enough electricity at peak output to power 40,000 homes.
The pulp mill sells the electricity to an Oregon company that resells it to California utilities to satisfy that states requirement for renewable energy.
The mills manager, John Conkle, said the mills sales of electricity helped the company weather the recession and keep its 410 workers employed.
Poneman said Simpsons biomass-powered boilers are an example of the diverse kinds of energy sources President Barack Obama favors to solve the nations demand.
The Simpson electricity generation facility is the nations largest single combined heat and power renewable energy project built in the U.S. in the last decade, according to the USA Biomass Power Producers Alliance.
The presidents all of the above approach to meeting energy demands includes not only projects like Simpsons, but also new-technology energy exploration, cutting-edge battery research, wind and solar power and fresh ideas for energy conservation, Poneman said.
Conkle said a federal grant was a key part in making the biomass energy project pencil out.
Obama has asked Congress to extend the so-called 1603 Recovery Act tax grant program to further stimulate renewable energy production in the country.
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