Quieter days and nights are promised at Burgess plant



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The commissioning process at the Burgess BioPower plant should become far less noisy and intrusive over the next weeks, according to Cate Street Capital's spokesman. This previously unpublished photo was taken during the boilers' first testing at summer's end. Photo by Edith Tucker. (click for larger version)
November 13, 2013
BERLIN — When Planning Board member Tom McCue complained at Thursday night's meeting how noisy the commissioning process has been at the Burgess BioPower plant, Director of Development Pam Laflamme explained that a number of City residents have called City Hall to complain. When she brought the complaints to Cate Street Capital's attention, she said she was assured that the company would try to be more forthcoming with its plans and to communicate better with the public.

And sure enough, the following morning, publicist Scott Tranchmontagne of Montagne Communications issued the following explanatory statement:

"Burgess BioPower delivered an update today (Nov. 8) to Berlin officials on the commissioning activities at its $275 million biomass power plant, which will be delivering clean, renewable electricity to the New England power grid before the end of the year.

"The company also thanked area residents for their patience during the facility's testing phase, and assured them that fewer 'steam blows' are expected in the near future.

"We understand that our facility testing has caused some concerns about noise, and we want to assure residents that an increased level and frequency of boiler 'steam blows' is normal during commissioning of a new power plant," Tranchemontagne said. "We also want our neighbors to know the frequency of steam venting during this testing phase is not indicative of normal operations. We appreciate the community's patience with our necessary commissioning activities. They are coming to a close soon."

Tranchemontagne added that Burgess is continuously communicating in "real time" with City officials and being as responsive as possible to all concerns.

Burgess intends to maintain its strong line of communication with the City and become even more involved in the community once the facility is fully operational.

"The so-called 'hot commissioning' at Burgess began in late August.

"This included the first firing of the boiler followed by numerous tests of plant systems, synchronization activities, and controlled starts and shutdowns, which include the release of steam.

"In addition to the planned testing, Burgess has also experienced a normal level of unplanned "system trips" with their corresponding plant shutdowns and start-ups.

"This is typical of a new facility during commissioning as necessary system adjustments are discovered and executed. As a result, there have been several planned and unplanned start-up-shutdown cycles. During these cycles, a certain amount of steam venting is required, and this has contributed to an increase in noise levels at unplanned times.

"As of today, Burgess has completed all of its planned commissioning tests that require shutdowns and start-ups, with the exception of a shutdown scheduled to occur at a point between Monday, Nov. 11 and today.

"Following this stop and restart, Burgess will be conducting a series of performance and reliability tests which, by their nature, require continuous facility operation. While there is always a possibility that an unplanned facility shutdown may occur, Burgess expects a dramatic decrease in the frequency of stops and restarts.

The state Department of Environmental Services (NHDES), Air Resources Division has recently reissued a Temporary Permit for the Burgess BioPower plant, because the one now in effect is due to expire on Jan. 31, 2014. Although the facility's construction is expected to be completed before that expiration date, the required compliance testing will not yet be completed, according to a letter that Burgess BioPower filed in late October.

Spokesman Tranchemontagne pointed out that Burgess BioPower is designed to use biomass from the region's forests to generate up to 75 megawatts of clean, renewable power.

"The projected ripple effect of economic activity due to logging, chipping, and hauling biomass to Burgess is expected to create and support hundreds of additional jobs.

"The plant will require more than 750,000 tons of wood chips annually and is currently seeking qualified suppliers," the spokesman said. He also explained that Burgess is trying to bring manufacturing companies to co-locate on its site, that will offer competitively priced steam and electricity.

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