F. H. Stoltze Is Higher Power - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

F. H. Stoltze Is Higher Power

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COLUMBIA FALLS -

A 100-year-old, family-owned company in Columbia Falls is branching out from lumber to create sustainable power.

Commercial production began on October 1, and now the new plant can put out up to three megawatt-hours. Right now, the plant powers about 2,500 homes in the Flathead. It all starts with the left overs.

"Eighty percent of the fuel comes from our byproducts from the saw mill: saw dust, bark, planter shavings," said Bryan O'Connor, the power plant manager.

The rest comes from sources such as slash piles from the surrounding woods.

"Instead of that stuff going up in the forest in smoke that we see every year, burn it in there and there's no emissions," said Chuck Roady, the Vice President and General Manager of F. H. Stoltze.

Burning the biomass (all the plant matter) leads to high pressure steam that not only dries timber, but also powers a turbine generator to produce electricity.

"What you see around us here is the wood waste that will generate that electricity and it'll be gone," explained Roady, "It'll be full circle."

This new plant represents a year of construction, a $22.5 million investment, and almost a dozen new hires.

"It's a huge, big step, but it's also big for the community too," said Roady.

The purchase agreement signed by F. H. Stoltze with Flathead Electric guarantees they will be bringing the power for the next twenty years, to make a return on their investment.

Last summer was the 100-year anniversary of F. H. Stoltze. It was also the groundbreaking of the new power plant.

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