Groundbreaking held for NH biopower plant

By Lisa Gibson | October 06, 2011

More than 250 people turned out for the groundbreaking ceremony of Burgess BioPower, formerly known as the Berlin Station, in Berlin, N.H., Oct. 6, including New Hampshire’s governor and the city’s mayor.

The $275 million, 75-megawatt plant is expected to begin generating power in 2013, selling it to New Hampshire Public Service under a 20-year power purchase agreement. New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development Commissioner George Bald, and Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier were among the state and local officials in attendance at the groundbreaking.

“This is a wonderful pre-holiday gift for us, bringing desperately needed jobs to Berlin and Coos County,” Grenier said. “This biomass plant is a huge benefit to all the people of northern New Hampshire, not just those here and now, but for future generations as well. Use of biofuels can reduce dependence on out-of-state and foreign energy sources, keeping energy dollars invested in New Hampshire’s economy.” Developer Cate Street Capital said Grenier has been an ardent supporter and instrumental leader throughout the project’s permitting process.

Burgess BioPower sits on the Androscoggin River in downtown Berlin on the former site of the Fraser Papers pulp mill, which closed in 2006. The biomass plant will burn approximately 750,000 tons of low-grade wood per year.

“The construction of this new biomass power plant will bring jobs to the North Country, and increase the amount of renewable energy used in New Hampshire,” Gov. Lynch said. “I am pleased we were all able to work together—Cate Street Capital, PSNH, local and state officials—so that we can break ground on this facility, which will be a real economic benefit to the North Country.”

The project has certainly had its barriers including local opposition, as well as disagreements with six independent biomass power plants in the state also vying for PPAs with PSNH. An agreement was reached among Cate Street Capital, PSNH and the six plants in August, allowing development of Burgess BioPower to continue.

No protesters attended the groundbreaking, according to Scott Tranchemontagne, spokesperson for Cate Street Capital. “There’s not a lot to protest anymore,” he said. “It’s a done deal.”