ABOUT US


We are dedicated to innovative sustainable energy solutions.


We are dedicated to innovative sustainable energy solutions. Our prior company, Zilkha Renewable Energy, made it possible for more than 400,000 households to switch to green wind power by the time it was sold to Energias de Portugal.

Zilkha Biomass Energy is a continuation of that legacy.

  • Zilkha Biomass Energy makes power out of woody biomass.
  • We produce baseload natural renewable fuel, providing good long term jobs both in the field and in our plants.
  • Zilkha Biomass Fuels produces the Zilkha Black® Pellet, a proprietary water-resistant biomass pellet that is transportable like coal.
  • Zilkha Biomass Power operates a proprietary direct-fired biomass-fueled gas turbine unit that powers commercial and industrial facilities.
Owners: Selim K. Zilkha & Michael Zilkha

VISIONARY ENERGY

The father-and-son team of Selim and Michael Zilkha has pioneered new technologies in the energy industry, earning them a reputation as “technology wildcatters.” Because Zilkha Energy Company used computer modeling to drill for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, locating even the smallest reserves with pinpoint accuracy, the Zilkhas successfully reopened US oil fields thought too prohibitive to drill economically. After selling their oil and gas company to Sonat for a billion dollars in 1998, the Zilkhas decided that  they wanted to invest their money and enthusiasm in renewable energy. They turned a small wind energy company into one of the most respected in the wind industry by building elegant and community-integrated wind farms throughout the country. Zilkha Renewable Energy entered into a partnership with Goldman Sachs in 2005 and the company was renamed Horizon Wind Energy.

Selim Zilkha

Selim K. Zilkha is an owner in Zilkha Biomass Energy. From 1998 to 2005, Selim was director and 50% owner of Zilkha Renewable Energy, now part of Energias de Portugal. From 1999 until 2002, Selim served as a director of El Paso Corporation. Prior to that, he was a director of Sonat Inc. from 1998 to 1999. Selim served as the Chief Executive Officer and sole director of Zilkha Energy Company from 1983 until January 1998. From 1960 to 1982, he founded and was Chairman and Managing Director of Mothercare, PLC, a retail chain catering to mothers-to-be and small children in Great Britain, Europe, and the United States. Selim sold his interest in Mothercare, PLC, in 1982. From 1947 to 1960, Selim worked for the family firm, Zilkha & Sons, in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. After serving in the U.S. Army as a private stationed at Camp Gordon, he graduated with a BA from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1946. Selim is the owner of Laetitia Vineyard and Winery. Selim is funding research in Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders through the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of South California. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Michael Zilkha

Michael Zilkha is co-owner of Zilkha Biomass Energy. From 1998 to 2005 he was president and co-owner of Zilkha Renewable Energy, bought by Goldman Sachs in July 2005 and now part of  Energias de Portugal. From 1986 to 1998, he was Executive Vice President and co-owner of Zilkha Energy Company. From 1978 to 1986 Michael owned ZE Records, a music production and publishing business in New York City. From 1975 to 1978, he worked in publishing in New York. He sits on the board of  the Menil Collection, Inprint and the Houston Cinema Arts Society in Houston, Texas. He is also on the board of Seventh Generation, The Turtle Conservancy, and The Kate McGarrigle Foundation. Michael graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford University, in 1975.

Chief Executive Officer: John B. (Jack) Holmes, Jr.

Mr. Holmes has had a lengthy and distinguished career as a leader in the energy industry. In December 2007, Mr. Holmes retired as Chief Executive Officer of Syntroleum Corporation. From 1999 through 2002, he served in several capacities at El Paso Corporation. From 2001-2002, he was Chief Operating Officer of El Paso’s Merchant Energy division. From 1999-2001, he was President of El Paso Production Company. Prior to El Paso, Mr. Holmes led Sonat Exploration Company as its President and Chief Executive Officer from 1998-1999 until its acquisition by El Paso. From 1986 to 1998, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Zilkha Energy Company, which under his leadership grew to $1.3 billion in value before being acquired by Sonat. Before joining the original executive team at Zilkha, Mr. Holmes held numerous executive positions in the energy business with several independent energy companies after a decade of service at Exxon Company, USA, from 1969-1979. He holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Mississippi.

Contact Jack Holmes

Chairman, Europe: Chris Huhne

Mr. Huhne was appointed as the Chairman, Europe of Zilkha Biomass in July 2013, with the remit of growing the business in the European Union. Chris was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the British coalition government from 2010 to 2012, and was responsible for the policy behind two key bills: the energy bill of 2011 setting up a new energy-saving framework for the UK, and the electricity market reform to spur low carbon investment replacing Britain’s ageing energy assets. He led the UK delegation at both the Cancun and Durban climate change talks. In Opposition before 2010, Chris was the shadow Environment secretary responsible for the first comprehensive plan for decarbonisation – Zero Carbon Britain. He was one of the pioneers in calling for political action to deal with global warming, having argued the case in his book ‘Real World Economics’ in 1990. During his time as a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2005, he was the first legislator to introduce sunset clauses time-limiting European law. Prior to elected office, Chris was group managing director of Fitch, the ratings agency, and an award-winning journalist on The Economist, Guardian and Independent. He has been on the board of the Consumers’ Association, the council of the Royal Economic Society, and a visiting fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford. Chris graduated with a BA (First Class) in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Magdalen College, Oxford University in 1975.

Contact Chris Huhne

Senior Vice President, Operations & Engineering: Larry Price

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. Larry then moved into the biomass fuel industry, leveraging his leadership experience in pulp & 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. Larry 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.

Plant Manager, Selma: Michael J. Sherbak II

Michael J. Sherbak II is a seasoned manufacturing operations executive with a proven track record of managing production facilities across several industries, including biomass. Since 2008, Michael has successfully led operations at four different manufacturing assets, holding full profit and loss accountability. From 2005 to 2007 as a recalled US Navy Civil Engineer Corps reserve officer, CAPT Sherbak was the Oil Sector lead for US funded oil and gas reconstruction programs in Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Michael is a Licensed Professional Engineer and holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Carolina.

Controller & Treasurer: John Branch
Senior Manager – Technology Marketing: Carole Engelder

Carole Engelder has 25 years of diverse experience leading teams in capital projects management and construction, procurement, logistics, safety and environmental engineering in the renewable energy, petroleum and petrochemical industries. Prior to joining Zilkha Biomass, Carole was the top Procurement executive for EDP Renewables North America (EDPR), leading $1-2 billion annual contracting, purchasing and materials management of wind farm and solar capital projects. Previously with BP Amoco, Carole served as a chemical plant Manager of Finance and Supply Chain. Her technical background is in engineering, having earned a BSCE from the University of Kansas and graduate degrees in Civil/Environmental Engineering from Purdue University. She also holds an MBA in Finance from Tulane University and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Texas. Carole currently serves on the Advisory Council of Breakthrough Houston and is a volunteer for the Houston Urban Debate League. Prior Board memberships include the San Jacinto Area Credit Union and The Chinquapin School.

Contact Carole Engelder

Manager - Pellet Sales: Jesse Dickerman

In addition to his work in communications and outreach, Mr. Dickerman heads Zilkha’s efforts to ensure sustainability throughout the biomass supply chain. Mr. Dickerman came to Zilkha after a decade in campaigns and government affairs, including four years as Southwest Political Director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He has worked on a variety of state and federal campaigns and has a BA in Political Science & History from Rice University.

Contact Jesse Dickerman

Biomass Resource Manager: Brian Reed

Brian Reed is a native Mississippian with a BS in Forest Management from Mississippi State University. A veteran of the forest products industry, Mr. Reed has been involved in wood procurement for 30 years. Mr. Reed was employed with Georgia Pacific Corporation for 22 years in Mississippi and Alabama sourcing manufacturing locations for forest products. Annual volumes procured exceeded 2 million tons annually. Mr. Reed began working in the biomass marketplace as Project Manager with Triangle Maintenance Corporation in Columbus, Mississippi, providing boiler fuel to pulp and paper locations from the company’s waste wood grinding operations. Mr. Reed is a Professional Logging Manager in the state of Alabama and a member of the Mississippi Forestry Association.

Contact Brian Reed

Owners: Selim K. Zilkha & Michael Zilkha

VISIONARY ENERGY

The father-and-son team of Selim and Michael Zilkha has pioneered new technologies in the energy industry, earning them a reputation as “technology wildcatters.” Because Zilkha Energy Company used computer modeling to drill for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, locating even the smallest reserves with pinpoint accuracy, the Zilkhas successfully reopened US oil fields thought too prohibitive to drill economically. After selling their oil and gas company to Sonat for a billion dollars in 1998, the Zilkhas decided that  they wanted to invest their money and enthusiasm in renewable energy. They turned a small wind energy company into one of the most respected in the wind industry by building elegant and community-integrated wind farms throughout the country. Zilkha Renewable Energy entered into a partnership with Goldman Sachs in 2005 and the company was renamed Horizon Wind Energy.

Selim Zilkha

Selim K. Zilkha is an owner in Zilkha Biomass Energy. From 1998 to 2005, Selim was director and 50% owner of Zilkha Renewable Energy, now part of Energias de Portugal. From 1999 until 2002, Selim served as a director of El Paso Corporation. Prior to that, he was a director of Sonat Inc. from 1998 to 1999. Selim served as the Chief Executive Officer and sole director of Zilkha Energy Company from 1983 until January 1998. From 1960 to 1982, he founded and was Chairman and Managing Director of Mothercare, PLC, a retail chain catering to mothers-to-be and small children in Great Britain, Europe, and the United States. Selim sold his interest in Mothercare, PLC, in 1982. From 1947 to 1960, Selim worked for the family firm, Zilkha & Sons, in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom. After serving in the U.S. Army as a private stationed at Camp Gordon, he graduated with a BA from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1946. Selim is the owner of Laetitia Vineyard and Winery. Selim is funding research in Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders through the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of South California. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Michael Zilkha

Michael Zilkha is co-owner of Zilkha Biomass Energy. From 1998 to 2005 he was president and co-owner of Zilkha Renewable Energy, bought by Goldman Sachs in July 2005 and now part of  Energias de Portugal. From 1986 to 1998, he was Executive Vice President and co-owner of Zilkha Energy Company. From 1978 to 1986 Michael owned ZE Records, a music production and publishing business in New York City. From 1975 to 1978, he worked in publishing in New York. He sits on the board of  the Menil Collection, Inprint and the Houston Cinema Arts Society in Houston, Texas. He is also on the board of Seventh Generation, The Turtle Conservancy, and The Kate McGarrigle Foundation. Michael graduated from Lincoln College, Oxford University, in 1975.

Chief Executive Officer: John B. (Jack) Holmes, Jr.

Mr. Holmes has had a lengthy and distinguished career as a leader in the energy industry. In December 2007, Mr. Holmes retired as Chief Executive Officer of Syntroleum Corporation. From 1999 through 2002, he served in several capacities at El Paso Corporation. From 2001-2002, he was Chief Operating Officer of El Paso’s Merchant Energy division. From 1999-2001, he was President of El Paso Production Company. Prior to El Paso, Mr. Holmes led Sonat Exploration Company as its President and Chief Executive Officer from 1998-1999 until its acquisition by El Paso. From 1986 to 1998, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Zilkha Energy Company, which under his leadership grew to $1.3 billion in value before being acquired by Sonat. Before joining the original executive team at Zilkha, Mr. Holmes held numerous executive positions in the energy business with several independent energy companies after a decade of service at Exxon Company, USA, from 1969-1979. He holds a degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Mississippi.

Contact Jack Holmes

Chairman, Europe: Chris Huhne

Mr. Huhne was appointed as the Chairman, Europe of Zilkha Biomass in July 2013, with the remit of growing the business in the European Union. Chris was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in the British coalition government from 2010 to 2012, and was responsible for the policy behind two key bills: the energy bill of 2011 setting up a new energy-saving framework for the UK, and the electricity market reform to spur low carbon investment replacing Britain’s ageing energy assets. He led the UK delegation at both the Cancun and Durban climate change talks. In Opposition before 2010, Chris was the shadow Environment secretary responsible for the first comprehensive plan for decarbonisation – Zero Carbon Britain. He was one of the pioneers in calling for political action to deal with global warming, having argued the case in his book ‘Real World Economics’ in 1990. During his time as a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2005, he was the first legislator to introduce sunset clauses time-limiting European law. Prior to elected office, Chris was group managing director of Fitch, the ratings agency, and an award-winning journalist on The Economist, Guardian and Independent. He has been on the board of the Consumers’ Association, the council of the Royal Economic Society, and a visiting fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford. Chris graduated with a BA (First Class) in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Magdalen College, Oxford University in 1975.

Contact Chris Huhne

Plant Manager - Selma: Michael J. Sherbak II

Michael J. Sherbak II is a seasoned manufacturing operations executive with a proven track record of managing production facilities across several industries, including biomass. Since 2008, Michael has successfully led operations at four different manufacturing assets, holding full profit and loss accountability. From 2005 to 2007 as a recalled US Navy Civil Engineer Corps reserve officer, CAPT Sherbak was the Oil Sector lead for US funded oil and gas reconstruction programs in Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Michael is a Licensed Professional Engineer and holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Carolina.

Senior Vice President – Operations: Larry Price

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. Larry then moved into the biomass fuel industry, leveraging his leadership experience in pulp & 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. Larry 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.

Controller & Treasurer: John Branch
Senior Manager – Technology Marketing: Carole Engelder

Carole Engelder has 25 years of diverse experience leading teams in capital projects management and construction, procurement, logistics, safety and environmental engineering in the renewable energy, petroleum and petrochemical industries. Prior to joining Zilkha Biomass, Carole was the top Procurement executive for EDP Renewables North America (EDPR), leading $1-2 billion annual contracting, purchasing and materials management of wind farm and solar capital projects. Previously with BP Amoco, Carole served as a chemical plant Manager of Finance and Supply Chain. Her technical background is in engineering, having earned a BSCE from the University of Kansas and graduate degrees in Civil/Environmental Engineering from Purdue University. She also holds an MBA in Finance from Tulane University and is a licensed Professional Engineer in Texas. Carole currently serves on the Advisory Council of Breakthrough Houston and is a volunteer for the Houston Urban Debate League. Prior Board memberships include the San Jacinto Area Credit Union and The Chinquapin School.

Contact Carole Engelder

Manager - Pellet Sales: Jesse Dickerman

In addition to his work in communications and outreach, Mr. Dickerman heads Zilkha’s efforts to ensure sustainability throughout the biomass supply chain. Mr. Dickerman came to Zilkha after a decade in campaigns and government affairs, including four years as Southwest Political Director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He has worked on a variety of state and federal campaigns and has a BA in Political Science & History from Rice University.

Contact Jesse Dickerman

Biomass Resource Manager: Brian Reed

Brian Reed is a native Mississippian with a BS in Forest Management from Mississippi State University. A veteran of the forest products industry, Mr. Reed has been involved in wood procurement for 30 years. Mr. Reed was employed with Georgia Pacific Corporation for 22 years in Mississippi and Alabama sourcing manufacturing locations for forest products. Annual volumes procured exceeded 2 million tons annually. Mr. Reed began working in the biomass marketplace as Project Manager with Triangle Maintenance Corporation in Columbus, Mississippi, providing boiler fuel to pulp and paper locations from the company’s waste wood grinding operations. Mr. Reed is a Professional Logging Manager in the state of Alabama and a member of the Mississippi Forestry Association.

Contact Brian Reed


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.