Loan from nonprofit lender allows for long-term, community ownership of innovative rural energy facility
Harney County-based High Desert Biomass Coop and regional business lender Craft3 have closed on a $1.1 million loan to allow for long-term, community ownership of an innovative, biomass district heating system in Burns, Oregon. The system, installed in 2016 by a private developer, provides renewable heat to the local courthouse, jail, elementary school, and an addiction treatment facility. The closing was celebrated by the community in Burns on November 2, 2017.
“In Harney County, we depend on each other and work together to solve problems. Five years ago, the County and School District in Burns had a big problem: inadequate heating systems that were failing. In response, we created an innovative cooperative to provide heat to the community, fueled by debris from our local forests,” said Lori Cheek, High Desert Biomass Coop. “With the help of Craft3 and our other partners, we’re proud to ensure the long-term community ownership of this biomass district-heating system.”
“Catalytic, rural projects like this one in Burns will be important to Craft3’s energy investment strategy over the next five years. We’re pleased to be Harney County’s partner in building community resilience, and proud of the many parties that came together to make this deal happen,” said Adam Zimmerman, President and CEO of Craft3.
Without the biomass system, higher-cost fossil fuel would have to be trucked in a long-distance to heat the community facilities. The system consumes roughly 500 tons of biomass a year, and provides a market for low-value forest residuals that are generated from local timber harvests, including restoration/fire risk reduction treatments on U.S. Forest Service lands.
“This project is a great example of what people can accomplish if they work together and care about their community,” continued Cheek.
When operating at full capacity, the system will reduce greenhouse gas emissions compared to alternative fossil fuels by an estimated 434 tons per year. The loan is structured to provide the Coop with additional financing to expand the footprint of the facility over the coming years to connect additional customers.
The overall project, which totals $2.2 million, is also supported by Portland-based Meyer Memorial Trust, a Business & Industry Loan Guarantee from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, and tax credits from the Oregon Department of Energy.
Craft3 is a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution providing loans that strengthen businesses, families and the environment throughout Oregon and Washington. Since inception in 1994, Craft3 has invested more than $450 million in people and businesses from offices in Port Angeles, Seattle, Spokane and Walla Walla, Washington, and Astoria, Bend and Portland, Oregon. Craft3 expects to open a new office in Klamath Falls, Oregon in late 2017. Learn more at www.Craft3.org.
About High Desert Biomass Coop
High Desert Biomass Coop was founded in 2015 with the intent of owning and managing the local biomass system, and is operated as a nonprofit customer cooperative. The founding members are Harney County & Harney County School District.