A small sawmill that hoped to sell surplus electricity from its steam generators has instead put the generators up for sale.
Eagle Stud Mill in Hall was one of eight businesses that worked with NorthWestern Energy in 2009 to explore turning waste sawdust into power. But even its leftovers couldn’t compete with the low market price of natural gas-derived electricity.
“Power’s going for about 6 cents a kilowatt-hour, and we needed 12 to 14 cents to make it work,” mill owner Joe Brooke said on Friday. “When we were running the stud mill, the generators supplied the power for the planer, which was about a third of the cost for electricity. But then we were running the boiler, and we had to have somebody on the boiler all the time. When stud prices went to hell, we couldn’t afford to operate it.”