Biomass plant proposed at former Pownal track

Tuesday May 11, 2010

POWNAL -- A Massachusetts company has signed a lease agreement with the owners of the former Green Mountain Race Track property, planning to construct a large biomass plant and wood pellet manufacturing facility.

Chic Paustian, of Southern Vermont Energy Park, the firm that owns the former track, said he believes the biomass plant will be a 29-megawatt facility and will have about 75 full-time employees, in addition to the hundreds of jobs generated during the facility’s construction.

He said the developer, Beaver Wood Energy, LLC, seeks to hire local construction and supply firms, as well as use local loggers to supply material for the completed operation. He said construction is not likely to begin this year, as the biomass and wood pellet facility must go through the Act 248 and Act 250 processes respectively.

The project will have to get Estimated Use permits from the town for use of its Waste Water Treatment Facility, and the Act 250 process requires the town’s input. Paustian said people should not be alarmed over smoke or wood dust emanating from the site. "This is all modern technology," he said. "They are studying the wind and everything else."

He said the property’s proximity to the Hoosic River does not concern them either. Doug Saunders, the property’s caretaker for the past 27 years, said he only experienced a flood once in the 1980s when water reached the grandstand but did not enter the building.

Paustian said the only water issues are from the southeast end where run-off from Route 7 can sometimes bubble up from storm drains. He said he has been in contact with the state and there is a plan to address the issue.

Beaver Wood approached the property owners last fall, said Paustian, after another company that wanted to build a wood pellet facility on the property backed out.

He said the railroad, which runs close to the site, may play a role in shipping wood pellets out. But for the most part the plan is to bring logs in on trucks for use in the pellet-making facility, and use the wood refuse from that process in the biomass facility.

Paustian said the town has been largely supportive of efforts to develop the 144-acre site, which ended its days as a dog racing track in the early 1990s. It opened in the early 1960s with horse racing.

He said some people still want to see racing come back, orsome other form of gambling opportunity. "There’s no money in horse racing anymore," he said. "There’s zero."

Which does not mean the site will not continue as an entertainment venue, he said; if anything, the economic activity will increase.

Paustian said that with a source of revenue available, the grandstand will be repaired and host events such as car shows, motorcycle shows and live bands. He said most groups wanting to use the site as a venue also want to book bands, and Paustian said efforts are under way to create a place for them to play.

What is now known as Southern Vermont Energy Park also may play host to a solar facility. EOS Ventures, another Massachusetts firm, is farther along in the permitting process than Beaver Wood Energy and has also sighed a lease agreement with the track owners.

Contact Keith Whitcomb at


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