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Iberdrola begins construction on Oregon biomass plant

By Anna Austin | November 10, 2010

As a result of collaboration of state and community leaders, local industry groups, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and more, Iberdrola Renewables Inc. has its required permits in place and has begun construction at its planned 26.8-megawatt biomass cogeneration plant in Lakeview, Ore.

Iberdrola, a dominant wind energy project developer, plans to be producing enough power for 18,000 homes by the fall of 2012.

Located in southern Oregon’s Lake County, the project has been in development for the past several years. It was owned by two other companies before being acquired by Iberdrola, which received a $1.7 million Recovery Act grant to help with costs.

The 55-acre plant site is about 20 miles from the California border next to Collins Pine Co.’s Fremont sawmill. Much of the power plant’s fuel will be logging and mill residuals from the sawmill’s operations. In turn, the plant will provide the sawmill with the equivalent of 2 megawatts of steam to power its operations. In total, the plant will consume about 160,000 bone-dry tons of biomass.

When complete, Lakeview Cogeneration LLC will create 18 full-time jobs at the plant and an estimated 50-plus in the forest.

Electricity generated from the plant will be sold to local utilities, helping to meet the state's renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Oregon's RPS requires the largest utilities in Oregon to provide 25 percent of their retail sales of electricity from renewable sources of energy by 2025, smaller utilities 10 percent and the smallest 5 percent.

 

1 Responses

  1. Chris

    2010-11-19

    1

    Construction of the Iberdrola’s biomass plant in Lakeview has begun.  The media is full of proud pronouncements, of jobs and saving the Collin’s Mill.  These are great things – were it not for the location adjacent to a former reclamated uranium mill site and in a town with some of the worst particulate air quality in Oregon.  Although you did not hear about it in the media, recently Iberdrola gave back $1.7 million dollars of American Reinvestment Act (Stimulus) monies allocated to the Lakeview project.  Why?  To avoid undergoing additional, more rigorous, environmental analysis and public review for the project.  Why do this?  One reason is tax credits.  The BETC (energy) tax credits are driving Iberdrola’s businesses decisions and construction of the biomass plant needed to begin prior to January 2011in order to receive these monies.  Another reason are new, more stringent, air pollution requirementsthat will apply to biomass plants like that being constructed in Lakeview and that go into effect January 2011.  Commencing now, they are grand fathered into the old rules.  All the hurrying for corporate profits is covering up a dirty little secret:  The groundwater/shallow water aquifer under Iberdrola’s site is contaminated with the byproducts of the old uranium mill.    Under direction from the EPA, town planning maps identify a groundwater overlay of suspected contaminated groundwater and codes prohibit the development of potable wells within that area.  There are no town codes or prohibitions to excavate.  Since ingestion of contaminated wateris already a concern, is exposure?  As foundation excavation for their 200 foot smoke stack, 85 foot cooling towers, and numerous 55 foot plus structures is undertaken, it is quite possible that workers will be exposed to radioactive groundwater.  Tracking down a regulatory agency, the Oregon Department of Public Healthis responsible for not only public health and safety, but is contracted out by OSHA to be responsible for protecting the health and safety of workers when radiological agents are involved.  While expressing concern, they have shown reluctance in exercising authority to enter the site for testing – even with the existence of groundwater monitoring wells in the area put in place for the purpose of monitoring the radioactive plume of groundwater.  They are making a decision on how to proceed shortly.  I would hope that politicians and regulatory agencies are not being co-opted as the project moves forward.  Iberdrola is the largest renewable energy company in the world and brings with it all the political clout national, state and local politicians can trickle down.  Business tax creditsand avoidance of more stringent clean air act / environmental rules should not trump the health and safety of workers and the public alike.    While the biomass project is a good one – its location may not.  Jobs are very important in Lakeview; however, as Lakeview already knows jobs (like those associated with the uranium mill in the past) can come with a high cost.  One can say that the biomass plant project exists only because of past forest mismanagement that were the jobs of the past.     The trick now is to not repeat history.

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