Part owner of biomass plant sells 40% stake


Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 7:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 7:08 p.m.

Tyr Energy, one of four part owners of the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, sold its 40 percent stake in the forthcoming 100-megawatt biomass plant to an energy-investment firm last month, though officials said the sale didn’t change the city’s contract with the facility.

Starwood Energy Group Global, based in Greenwich, Conn., took over Tyr’s share of the company on Dec. 30, according to an announcement made Tuesday, and also recently invested in a 75-megawatt biomass project in Berlin, N.H.

In 2009, the Gainesville City Commission approved a 30-year contract with American Renewables, now doing business here as GREC LLC, to purchase the energy produced at the plant, which will be fueled by burning wood waste.

Construction began in March 2011, and the group of owners at the time — Tyr; Energy Management Inc., of Boston; Ron Fagen, who owns the Minnesota construction company building the plant; and BayCorp Holdings, of Portsmouth, N.H. — secured financing for the $500 million project in June.

Josh Levine, the GREC project manager, said Tuesday that Tyr, based in Kansas, made some investments in 2011 that didn’t fare well and one thing of value it had to sell was its stake in the plant.

The sale had no impact on the rest of the owners, which all own roughly 20 percent of the plant, or the deal with the city, Levine said.

“It changes absolutely nothing at all with the contract,” he said.

Gainesville Regional Utilities spokeswoman Kim Jamerson said the utility believed there was “no anticipated impact” from the sale but added that the GRU’s attorney was reviewing paperwork to be sure.

“We wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we didn’t look into to it to confirm that,” Jamerson said.

Levine said he had been reading statements from candidates vying for two open City Commission seats in the Jan. 31 election regarding the biomass deal, including financing and construction matter, and said the issue was being raised for political reasons, not because of the “merits of the project.”

“The project is full-steam ahead, and the notion that I have seen some candidates make — that major construction has not begun — is just a misnomer and is a flat out lie,” he said.

Starwood Energy, a subsidiary of Starwood Capital Group, has stakes in natural-gas plants and solar arrays across the country and feels biomass is a lucrative venture in the South.

“In certain parts of the country, most notably in the Southeast and Northeast, biomass projects provide a cost-effective, sustainable and renewable generation resource. Therefore, Starwood is keenly interested in this asset class,” the company said in a statement in response to questions from The Sun.

In a news release, Starwood Energy’s vice president, Himanshu Saxena, said: “We are very excited to be a part of this important project and the impressive ownership group. This represents our second investment in a biomass power facility in the last four months and allowed us to capitalize on our expertise to complete the acquisition in a short time frame.”

Contact Chad Smith at 338-3104 or chad.smith@gvillesun.com.

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