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Biomass plant looks promising for Vail

12 months have passed since 80 companies applied to receive a $26 million (€20.9 million) federal grant from the Department of Energy (DoE).

Now three firms remain after the DoE made its final cut, one of which is private firm Hayden, Cary & King, Co., which hopes to construct a biomass power plant in the town of Vail, Colorado, US.

The Vail biomass refinery would use beetle-killed pine trees as feedstock to generate 28MW of power. High-heat wood gasification-to-power boilers would be used to provide lodges, hotels and public buildings with heated water, as well as snowmelt systems located underneath the roads and pavements in the town.

The plant is seen by some as a solution to deal with the increasing amount of dead trees killed off by the mountain pine beetle. The beetles are expected to kill around 90% of fully-grown lodgepole pine trees in the Vail Valley.

Despite the positive effects the plant would have on the environment, such as reducing the pollution in the atmosphere, some residents have reservations about the possible new build. It would be highly expensive transporting the dead trees out of the forest due to the harsh terrain and a slowing local logging industry, not to mention major obstructions caused by the wilderness and lack of roads.