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More than 70 unemployed following biomass plant shutdown

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(The Center Square) – What began as an attempt to protect the environment has resulted in the loss of 70 rural Michigan jobs.

The Viking Energy Biomass plant in Lincoln, a village of 305 people near Lake Huron, is being required to shut down following climate and budget concerns. The decision resulted in the loss of 21 full-time onsite employees, as well as 50 other full-time employees responsible for processing and transporting the 225,000 tons of wood used annually at the plant.

In March, the Michigan Public Service Commission denied Consumers Energy’s requests to close the plant early, saying they wanted to give the employees more time to find new jobs. Nevertheless, the plant still decided to shut down early despite their contract not ending until 2027.

“People aren’t just losing their jobs; families are losing access to affordable and reliable energy,” State Rep. Cam Cavitt, R-Cheboygan. “I’m not sure how Michigan will transfer to wind and solar energy on the governor’s radical timeline if energy producers keep abandoning our state. We need alternative power sources like natural gas and biomass if we ever hope to have a sustainable and reliable energy grid.”

The MSPC expressed concerns over the switch to renewables, saying Consumer’s plans to establish a solar and wind farm will not be enough to replace the Lincoln plant’s 18 megawatts produced annually. Before the shutdown, the biomass plant powered an average of 14,000 homes in the region.

The plant used wood from forestry projects in northern Michigan, leaving the question of what the local forestry industry will now do with their waste.

“The loss of our biomass power stations will result in an increased reliance on volatile and unpredictable energy resources,” Justin Knepper, executive director of the Michigan Association of Timbermen said. “Members of the Michigan Association of Timbermen work hard each and every day to ensure that our biomass power stations are supplied with sustainably harvested wood residuals that provide clean, renewable energy.”

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