Dale and Sharon Borgford, small business owners in Stevens County, WA, break ground with Peter Goldmark, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands. The pair brought more than 75 jobs to the area with help from DOE's State Energy Program and the U.S. Forest Service. | Photo courtesy of Washington DNR.

In 2005, Springdale Lumber closed its timber mill in the already economically stressed Stevens County, an hour’s drive north of Spokane, Washington, leaving 25 employees without jobs.

Nearly five years later, in October 2010, a dedicated group of small business owners sought a solution to restore the eastern Washington town’s economic dynamo. Dale and Sharon Borgford, the owners of several local businesses, proposed using a $771,000 Recovery Act grant from the Energy Department’s State Energy Program and $4 million from the U.S. Forest Service to purchase the shuttered mill and install a combined heat and power (CHP) system.
Combined heat and power systems generally use some of the heat produced by electricity generation for another function. The system may use the heat to warm living or working spaces, or even replace an entire process on a manufacturing line. Springdale Lumber uses an OctaFlame CHP system that runs on biomass and replaces a propane-fueled machine that used to dry the lumber.
The OctaFlame system “cooks” mill wood waste in an airtight vessel and heats it to extremely high temperatures. The heat dries the mill’s lumber and is also applied to water, which creates the steam to run a turbine, creating electricity. The electricity provides power to the mill and excess electricity is pushed onto the power grid. The by-product of the high-heat cogeneration process is biochar, which can be sold as an agricultural soil additive.
The cogeneration system at Springdale Mill is estimated to eventually produce enough power to support approximately 3,500 households in Stevens County.
Since re-opening Springdale Lumber in 2009, the city has been in a continual process of economic revitalization. Even as the first projects remain to be permitted, Borgford is already preparing to install a whole-log chipping system to turn logs into fuel for cogeneration at the mill. He says the system will chip logs that are too small, crooked, or scarred to be cut into wood products.
With help from the U.S. Forest Service and the Recovery Act, for every job lost in the mill’s forced closure in 2005, three have been replaced -- with more on the way as the Borgfords continue to expand their business.