Biomass project development list grows in U.S., Canada

By Lisa Gibson
Several new biomass power plants are in the works including two in the U.S. and one in Canada.

The Canadian project will be developed on the Lower Nicola Indian Band Reservation in Merrit, British Columbia. The LNIB will own half of the project and Biomass Secure Power Inc. will own the other half. LNIB will provide the 25 acres on which the plant will be built and BSP will supply engineering expertise to design, build and operate the plant, along with a pellet mill that will be included in the same facility, according to BSP President and CEO Jim Carroll. He declined to release a cost estimate for the project.

The 12-megawatt (MW) plant and pellet mill will process 300,000 cubic meters of pine beetle-infested trees from the area annually, Carroll said.

Ten megawatts from the power plant will be sold to BC Hydro, and BSP also is looking into providing electricity to homes on the reservation, Carroll said. The plant also will provide heat to dry the wood that's fed into the pellet mill.

The wood pellets will be sold for a profit, although the target market is uncertain. "We haven't gotten the whole market defined," Carroll said. The company is in purchasing discussions with European organizations, but would also like to establish a local market.

The LNIB has approved construction of the facility on its land, and BSP is in the process of securing required environmental permits. "But we're well within what's allowed, so that won't be a problem," Carroll said. He added that he expects the plant to be on line in December 2010. BSP also is working on developing power plants in Abbotsford, British Columbia, California and eastern Canada, he said.

Adage LLC, a joint venture of Areva SA and Duke Energy, hopes to break ground on a 50-MW biomass power plant near Jasper, Fla., in early 2010, according to the company, which anticipates a 30-month construction period. The plant will run on 500,000 tons of wood waste per year and is in negotiations with The Langdale Co. to secure a supply. Adage also is in discussions with JEA, a Jacksonville area utility, to secure purchase agreements for the energy. The plant will have the capacity to provide electricity for 40,000 homes.

The facility will be built on a 215-acre site south of Jasper and will create 400 jobs during construction, along with 125 during operation, according to Adage. The cost of the project is estimated at more than $150 million, funded mostly by Adage, according to Jarret Adams, media coordinator for the company.

Washington state will see a new biomass plant, too, as Northwest Renewable will begin construction next year on a $72.5 million power plant in Longview, according to the company. The 24-MW facility will run on 550 bone-dry tons of forest slash and other wood waste per day with the resulting energy sold to the grid. The plant will be built on a 32-acre site in an industrial park and will create 70 new jobs in the logging and processing industries. The company hopes the plant will be on line by 2011, the deadline to qualify for U.S. DOE tax incentives.

Northwest Renewable, owned by U.S. Ethanol, had previously announced it would build a $100 million ethanol plant at the location, but market fluctuations resulted in a change of plans, according to Tawni Camarillo, communications representative for the company. The food-versus-fuel debate also influenced the hold on the project, she added. "We have not thrown out that project," she said. "It's just on a temporary hold." Construction on the facility had begun when the company decided to put the project on hold.

Northwest Renewable also announced plans earlier this year to build a cellulosic ethanol plant on the same Longview site. It will work well beside the biomass power plant, as the feedstocks will be the same, Camarillo said.