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Sparks Fly Over Biomass in New Hampshire

The situation in New Hampshire over a biomass power project in Berlin has pitted the developers against the existing biomass plants, and is now involving the industries and people who could potentially build the new plant.
By Rona Johnson | June 03, 2011

The situation in New Hampshire over a biomass power project in Berlin has pitted the developers against the existing biomass plants, and is now involving the industries and people who could potentially build the new plant. Laidlaw Berlin BioPower LLC is developing the 70-megawatt biomass power plant, which is expected to use 750,000 tons of wood chips per year. 

The owners and operators of the existing New Hampshire biomass power plants—Bridgewater Power Co., Pinetree Power-Tamworth, Whitefield Power & Light Co. and Indeck Energy-Alexandria—and biomass-based steam plant owners in the state petitioned for intervention in a power purchase agreement (PPA) between the project and Public Service of New Hampshire, saying that the plant is too big and will raise the price of biomass fuel for everyone.

The controversy came to a head recently when state regulators suspended an order that gave conditional approval for a 20-year PPA between the proposed plant and PSNH.

In response, Steve Griffin, president of Isaacson Structural Steel Inc. in Berlin, wrote a column in The Berlin Daily Sun titled “It’s Time for NH’s Wood-Fired Power Plants to Stop Fighting Berlin BioPower.” Griffin, a steelworker’s union and a group of construction workers took out ads in New Hampshire newspapers trying to convince the biomass plants to drop their opposition. Also this week, members of the New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council and United Steel Workers Union, Local 75, picketed the Bridgewater Power plant.

I am not going to take sides in this issue because while I support the development of biomass power plants, I also am concerned about the existing plants in New Hampshire. Not only are they worried about higher fuel prices, but the biomass power producers have expired and expiring PPAs and no one is interested in either renewing or signing new contracts with the plants. For more information on this issue, see Associate Editor Lisa Gibson’s story from the June issue of Biomass Power & Thermal at http://www.biomassmagazine.com/articles/5552/out-with-the-old.

It’s time for New Hampshire to take a look at the situation and determine just how much the biopower and timber industries contribute to the state’s economy and do something to provide some stability before these plants have to shut down and hundreds of people lose their jobs. The developers of the Berlin plant will want to be involved in this as well, or 20 years down the road they could find themselves in the same position as the existing plants.  

 

 

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