North Country
5:34 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Berlin Biomass Plant To Open Late Next Year - $25 Million Boost To Economy Predicted

By the end of 2013 the new biomass plant in Berlin should be operating and putting about $25 million a year into the forest economy, says Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for the facility’s owners, Cate Street Capital of Portsmouth.

Wednesday morning a key part of the facility arrived, a 132-ton steam turbine carried on a transporter that is 175-feet long and has 74 wheels.

Powered by 750,000 tons of woodchips each year, the Burgess BioPower plant is expected to provide 75 megawatts of power to Public Service of New Hampshire.

Tranchemontagne said construction of the $275 million facility is providing about 400 construction jobs.

When the plant is open it will have about 40 full-time employees.

During a hearing in 2010 before the state’s Site Evaluation Committee the owners at the time – Laidlaw Berlin Biomass – wouldn’t promise that all the wood would come from the North Country.

But Tranchemontagne said Cate Street Capital hopes to buy all that wood within 100 miles of Berlin.

The biomass plant followed a tough regulatory path and at times it looked like it might not be built.

Early in 2011 the Public Utilities Commission concluded the proposed 20-year deal between Laidlaw Berlin Biomass and PSNH was not in the public interest.

The PUC said the risk was too great that consumers would pay too much for the electricity. There was also concern that what some saw as a sweetheart contract was really about eventually allowing PSNH to buy the plant.

PSNH argued that if energy prices went up the deal with the biomass plant might save consumers money, a point its opponents had to concede.

PSNH also pointed to the economic benefits to the North Country and the use of a renewable resource.

Many officials in the North Country applauded the project.

Eventually Laidlaw and PSNH agreed to modify the arrangement, paying less for electricity and the PUC approved the deal. The utility still has the option to eventually buy the facility.

For other stories:

PSNH Agrees To PUC Conditions

Consumer Advocate Says No To Berlin Biomass Plant

PUC Says As Proposed PSNH-Laidlaw Deal Not In The Public Interest