JOHN DAY - Ochoco Lumber has been awarded a grant to study energy conservation and efficiency options at the Malheur Lumber Company millsite in John Day.

The project is one of three selected by the Oregon Department of Energy and Business Oregon for funding through the state's Forest Products Energy Project.

The grant amounts are $20,000 for Ochoco, $16,900 for the Prineville Sawmill Company in Prineville, and $52,000 for Blue Mountain Lumber Products in Pendleton.

All of the awards fund feasibility studies, which are expected to be completed by September.

With the funding, Ochoco will be able to retain a consultant to evaluate the existing boiler system at the millsite, and look at ways the plant can expand on the thermal energy production from biomass at the pellet plant, according to Matt Krumenauer, senior policy analyst with ODOE.

He said the aim is to examine the existing system, but primarily the boiler, and see if there are ways to make it more efficient and also increase the amount of biomass utilized.

The Forest Porducts Energy Project is part of Gov. John Kitzhaber's initiative to get Oregonians back to work, promote forest restoration,and generate renewable energy.

The effort is designed to develop additional renewable energy capability, to encourage investments in forest product mills, and to retain and create jobs in the wood products industry. The project is an effort between the Oregon Department of Energy, Business Oregon, the Oregon Department of Forestry, and the Energy Trust of Oregon.

"These projects will promote efficient use of biomass while strengthening business, promoting forest health, and creating jobs," said Kitzhaber. "Our forest products industry is well positioned to support the increased use of biomass, creating additional renewable energy market opportunities."

The three grants come from a pool of $200,000, with a second round of grant offerings under way now. Local forest product companies in Oregon can compete for the remaining funds.

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