We are dedicated to innovative sustainable energy solutions.

We are dedicated to innovative sustainable energy and carbon neutral solutions.

Zilkha Biomass Fuels I provides:

  • Energy out of woody biomass.
  • We produce baseload natural renewable fuel, providing long term jobs both in the forest and in our plants.
  • Zilkha Biomass Fuels I produces the Zilkha Black™ Pellet, a proprietary water-resistant biomass pellet that is transportable like coal.
Larry Price (Age 59), Co-Founder, Manager and Chief Executive Officer of NextGen Black Pellets LLC.

Larry Price is a senior operations executive with extensive experience in leading and implementing strategic initiatives across multiple production facilities. From 1997 to 2010, he served as either Vice President or General Manager within Smurfit Stone’s Containerboard Mill Division, most recently tasked with enhancing best practices across all its mills. Mr. Price then moved into the biomass fuel industry, leveraging his leadership experience in pulp and paper to stabilize and enhance operations at Wood Fuel Developers’ first wood pellet plant, while also serving on the company’s board of directors. He has also helped lead the turnaround and re-commissioning of a bioethanol plant purchased out of bankruptcy. Mr. Price joined Zilkha Biomass in 2016 as Sr. VP Operations & Engineering. Mr. Price holds both an MBA from the College of William and Mary, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the West Virginia Institute of Technology.

Howard Lee (Age 43), Chief Financial Officer for NextGen Black Pellets LLC.

Mr. Lee has worked in the renewable energy sector in a number of finance and analysis positions. He has worked on or led various financings for wind, solar, and biomass power projects. In his position as Vice-President of Finance for the Company, Mr. Lee led the financing for the Company’s biomass fuel business located in Selma, Alabama. For the project, Mr. Lee arranged a number of financings that included tax-exempt bonds, New Markets Tax Credits, and EB-5 financings. Mr. Lee holds a B.S. degree in economics from the University of Chicago and an MBA from Rice University. 

The Reason We Are In Business

Michael Zilkha
April 2014

In the spring of 2005, my father and I sold our wind energy company Zilkha Renewable Energy to Goldman Sachs. We were comfortable with Goldman because they had helped sell our oil and gas exploration company in 1998.

We sold what had become one of the largest wind developers in the United States because we could no longer afford to fund all the opportunities we were developing. Wind energy had become fashionable, and our business model no longer worked. When we started out in 1998, a large wind farm was 80 MW in size, and cost about $1000 per MW to develop. By 2005 we were developing 400+ MW wind farms, and the cost of developing each MW had risen to about $1, 500. More importantly, you now had to put down deposits to secure wind turbines two years in advance, whereas we used to be able to order them for immediate delivery whenever we needed to. You had to be either a very small operator, with minimal overhead, developing individual plays to sell on to a larger wind developer, or if you were planning to construct the wind farms you developed, you needed a large profitable balance sheet because of the tax credits attached to wind production. Goldman Sachs held the large balance sheet and they appreciated the culture which made Zilkha Renewable special, so we felt they were the right owner to carry our company forward. We retained a net profits interest, and our wind company was rechristened Horizon Wind Energy. When Goldman Sachs sold Horizon to Energias de Portugal (EDP) two years later, it was one of the single largest investments on Goldman’s balance sheet; and factoring in future turbine orders, they had committed over $2 billion to the venture.

My father and I discovered that we loved the larger sense of purpose and the satisfaction that came from being in renewable energy. The sense of accomplishment when our Blue Canyon wind farm opened in Oklahoma in 2003 was exhilarating. Wind in the early 2000s was not an easy sell in Oklahoma, yet here was this large wind farm which we had persuaded the Kimbells, a family steeped in oil and gas exploration, to allow us to build on their land, and which was soon to become a tourist attraction. We had made special efforts to have the associated buildings fit in with local architecture, and to be the best neighbor possible. Blue Canyon has been through two expansions and is now four times its original size. We may have needed to sell our wind company but we did not want to be out of the renewable energy business, hence our move into biomass.

Biomass, like wind, is a renewable energy source, although it has presented an entirely different set of challenges. In wind we were applying known technology in a novel and systematized way. In biomass we have ended up developing a brand new technology. The emphasis in our first energy company was on science and prospect generation and lease acquisition. Our product sold itself. In wind our focus was on acquiring the best sites (a combination of windiness and location), securing a purchaser and integrating into our host communities. In biomass we are having to combine skills from both. Although steam explosion, which is how we create our pellets, has been used for years in the pulp business, we are applying the process in an entirely new way. So we have had to build an exceptional engineering team. Once we had perfected our water resistant pellet, we discovered that it was not easy to persuade a utility or end user that it was worth switching to a different fuel, albeit a superior one. We also learned of an understandable reluctance on the part of potential customers to entrust a sole source provider with supplying fuel for their plant. So we have deliberately sought out licensees to enhance our credibility and provide greater supply.  We are now eight years into our journey. We have developed a brand new clean, renewable fuel which we believe will soon become the preferred renewable, on-demand (dispatchable) choice all over the world. Our water-resistant wood pellets enable coal plants, either through co-firing or complete substitution, to meet their renewable mandates without the costly retrofits necessitated by conventional wood pellets. In the case of certain islands and other special situations where oil is used as a primary fuel, we can, through conversion, save our customers up to a third on their fuel costs. And we are using a bountiful source of energy, which needs harvesting for forests to remain healthy, as our source product, at a time when the pulp business has fallen off as a result of less people reading physical newspapers.

My father says that in business he has enjoyed the journey more than the arrival, and currently we are on a thrilling journey to commercialize woody biomass and improve our environment in the process.