Tuesday, July 10, 2012
BERLIN — “All of the intended consequences are happening,” an enthusiastic Mayor Paul Grenier told Governor John Lynch on Friday at the Burgess BioPower project site in the heart of Berlin.
Grenier toured the site with the governor, John Hallé, president and CEO of Cate Street Capital, the project developers, and others.
A year ago, the project seemed stalled, with the state’s six independent wood-burning power producers going to court to stop the project’s 20-year power purchase agreement with Public Service of New Hampshire. There were other roadblocks along the way, with the project originally proposed by Laidlaw Energy Group.
“Our back,” the mayor said, “was against the wall a couple of years ago.” Without the support and hard work of the governor and the state’s commissioners, “We wouldn’t be seeing all of this,” Grenier said.
“Well,” Lynch replied, “we had a lot of interesting discussions in my office.”
On Friday, Lynch was told that the project was on time, on target, and on budget. It is expected to start producing electricity in the fall of 2013.
With eight contractors working on the various parts of the $275 million project, employment at the site is up to 225 workers, including management. That number, according to site manager Carl Belanger, should get up to 300 in August.
David Forbes, director of construction for Waldron Engineering & Construction, led the group through the construction site, which included a walk through the boiler building, still mostly empty. The boiler will have a fluidized bed.
When online, the wood-to-energy plant will consume about 750,000 tons of wood material a year, with 70 to 75 trucks a day coming from a radius of 60 to 70 miles to supply the state-of-the-art boiler. The generator will produce 75 megawatts of power. The facility will keep 10 megawatts for its own use, sending 65 megawatts into the grid.
Hallé said that they would like to build a compressed natural gas filling station, and offer financing to truckers who would like to convert to the greener transportation energy.
“We’re always trying to stay green,” Hallé said.
Barry Kelley of White Mountain Lumber said supplying the wood will give work to “literally hundreds” and that it has a multiplying effect in the region’s economy. He noted Brookfield Power’s investment in the hydro-stations on the Androscoggin River, the region’s wind power projects, and the gas line bringing methane down from the Mt. Carberry Landfill to the Gorham paper mill.
“All of a sudden,” Kelley said, “we’re leading the state in green energy.”
Lynch toured the Gorham Paper and Tissue mill down the road, where he was greeted warmly by the mill workers. A year ago, that plant was just restarting under new ownership. Lynn Tilton, founder and CEO of Patriarch Partners, bought the mill, likely saving the facility from the wrecking ball. Now, a new tissue machine is coming together, a $35 million investment that will help the mill be more competitive.
The governor commented that there is a new feeling of optimism in the Androscoggin Valley.
“You can feel it, you can see it in the expressions of the people,” he said.