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Laidlaw applies for permit to build, operate 70-MW biomass plant

December 23, 2009
BERLIN — Laidlaw Berlin BioPower LLC (LBB) filed an application on Thursday, Dec. 17, with the state's seven-member Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) to build and operate a 70-megawatt wood-chip burning biomass plant on the site of the former Burgess pulp mill.

Under the state's expedited process for locating renewable energy projects, the SEC has 30 days to review the application and accept it as complete or to reject it. Once it has accepted an application as complete, the SEC has eight months to approve the project and issue a permit. Called a Certificate of Site and Facility, the permit usually includes a number of conditions based on testimony at formal hearings — all open to the public — that are held in the hearing room at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

Within a month of accepting the application, the SEC must hold a public hearing in Coös County at which members of the public can ask questions and raise concerns and/or make statements of support.

"We are confident that we have a strong application worthy of this important project, and we look forward to working collaboratively with the Site Evaluation Committee, as well as state and local representatives throughout the review process," Laidlaw President and CEO Michael Bartoszek is quoted as saying in a online "Business Wire" article. "We are convinced that this project will be a source of pride for the State of New Hampshire and the City of Berlin, and we appreciate and will continue to build on the strong support we have received from the citizens of Berlin and Mayor-elect Paul Grenier."

A copy of the application is posted on the SEC webpage at www.nhsec.nh.gov.

Laidlaw purchased the facility from North American Dismantling (NAD) Corp. a year ago in Dec. 2008.

NAD had purchased the facility in May 2006 from the Fraser Paper Company. NAD demolished all of the buildings and assets that were not associated with the anticipated biomass conversion and also sold the scrap steel.

The Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) boiler remains in place, however. The B&W boiler, with a steam capacity of about 600,000 pounds an hour after biomass conversion, would be converted by B&W by installing a state-of-the-art "bubbling fluidized bed" in the boiler. B&W is also expected to provide and guarantee the back-end emissions controls for the boiler to comply with the state's Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), ensuring the project's ability to sell its renewable attributes, known as "RECs."

On its webpage, Laidlaw says that it aims to make its Berlin biomass-energy project one of the largest and most environmentally sound biomass-energy facilities in the U. S. It would annually burn more than 700,000 tons of clean whole-tree chips made from low-grade wood, generating substantial local economic activity for loggers, truckers, foresters, and other local businesses as well as support timberland owners and investors.

Laidlaw estimates that 40 people would be employed in the facility with many more jobs created in the woods.

Laidlaw's executives say that the Berlin project would help reverse the region's job-loss trend by spending over $25 million a year for biomass fuel purchases, boosting the regional economy.

In 2007, New Hampshire signed into law a state Renewable Portfolio Standard ("RPS"), which requires that utilities get 25 percent of their energy supply from renewable resources by 2025, with an annually increasing minimum requirements starting in 2008 until the 25 percent requirement is met in 2025. Utilities meet their legislative mandate by either purchasing RECs from renewable generators or by paying into the state-established Renewable Energy Fund at a default rate per megawatt hour, called the "Alternative Compliance Payment."

Laidlaw is still negotiating the final details of a purchase power agreement (PPA) with Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH). After a PPA is inked, the state PUC must approve it.

In order to receive a state Certificate of Site and Facility to build and operate an energy-generating plant, an applicant must prove that it has adequate financial, technical, and managerial capacity. The SEC must also be assured that the project would not have "an unreasonable adverse effect" on aesthetics, air and water quality, and public health and safety."

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