But only Stored Solar's creditors will likely benefit, leaving in the lurch dozens of loggers who say the company owes them money.
Stored Solar's West Enfield biomass plant is shown in 2017. The plant is one of the assets that a bankruptcy judge has ordered the company to sell to pay down debts. Credit: Darren Fishell / BDN

A Maine-based biomass company that filed for bankruptcy will lose all of its facilities in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire after a judge approved a sale of the company’s assets to pay off millions of dollars in debt.

But only the company’s creditors whose claims are secured by company property are likely to benefit from the sale. That would leave dozens of loggers who say the company owes them money unpaid.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michael Fagone on Wednesday approved the sale of all of Stored Solar Enterprises’ assets that were free and clear from other debts to Hartree Biomass Holdco LLC — an offshoot of Hartree Partners, an energy market investor that is Stored Solar’s largest creditor.

Those assets include biomass plants in West Enfield and Jonesboro. The company is headquartered in West Enfield. 

Stored Solar LLC and all but one of its subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Bangor. 

Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code provides a way for companies to reorganize their operations. In its filing, the company claimed it owes $17.8 million to creditors, including the states of Maine and New Hampshire, and Maine loggers, in addition to Hartree.

But with Fagone’s order Wednesday, Stored Solar will not get a chance to reorganize its debts. 

The filing came six years after Maine lawmakers passed a $13 million bailout of the state’s biomass industry, which uses waste wood to produce electricity, intending to preserve electric plants and logging jobs.

Stored Solar was one of two companies to benefit from the subsidy package, which used taxpayer money to guarantee biomass producers above-market prices for their electricity. But the company, which bought the West Enfield and Jonesboro plants in 2016 after previous owner Covanta shut them down, only ran the plants intermittently following the bailout’s passage.

Loggers across Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire have watched Stored Solar’s bankruptcy case to see if a court order would guarantee them the sometimes thousands of dollars they said the company owes them. 

In addition to the subsidy package in Maine, the company has benefited from a special arrangement in Vermont, where the state guarantees it above-market rates for the power it produces at its facility located in the town of Ryegate. Still, the company is in debt to loggers who have supplied the facility.

And in New Hampshire, the four plants that Stored Solar acquired in 2020 after they had shut down have operated only intermittently since, depriving loggers there of a dependable market during a time of upheaval in the forest products industry.

Stored Solar’s Ryegate operation will be the only one not directly affected by the sale, according to court records. 

The sale price is the aggregate amount of debts Stored Solar owes, according to a purchase agreement included in court records. 

In its bankruptcy filing, Stored Solar listed nine creditors whose claims are secured by company property and another 375 creditors who don’t have secured claims. The company’s largest secured creditor, the New York-based Hartree Partners, is owed $8.9 million, according to court documents. 

The creditors with secured claims against the company are prioritized for repayment in bankruptcy proceedings.

The creditors with unsecured claims include a wide range of entities, including loggers; the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, to which the company owes permitting fees; cellphone service providers; and both the state of Maine and New Hampshire for expenses including unpaid taxes.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...