Vermont pellet/CHP project awaits pending RPS

By Anna Austin | March 07, 2012

Plans for Beaver Wood Energy’s 34 MW combined-heat-and-power (CHP) facility co-located with a pellet plant in Fair Haven, Vt., are still moving along. But Tom Emero, managing director of development and operations, says the construction date of the facility largely depends on the outcome of the state’s pending renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

Vermont implemented a voluntary RPS in 2005, and has been considering a mandatory RPS for the last several years. Release of a final version is still pending, although the Vermont Department of Public Service and House Committee on Natural Resources have exchanged several drafts. It was last discussed in the House Committee on Natural Resource and Energy at the end of February.

“At this point, the legislature in Vermont is struggling with establishing the RPS, and the results of that will greatly affect the timing of the construction of the project,” Emero said. “If they put out a decent RPS that incentivizes utilities to buy the power, it will happen a lot sooner. If they blow out any requirements for new renewable generation, it might be a different story.”

Emero said the project recently acquired its air permit and now only needs a Certificate of Public Good. A CPG is required in Vermont for all new gas and electric purchases, investments, and facilities, including transmission upgrades. The Public Service Board evaluates a proposed project to determine whether it serves the general good of the state, determined by a series of factors related to the need for the project and the impact it will have.

Emero says the power aspect of the project is the complicated part. “Building a power plant is a significantly different animal than building a pellet plant,” he said. “Ultimately we’re just waiting on that RPS.”

When Beaver Wood Energy’s project is complete, heat and steam generated at the plant will be used to support the 110,000-ton-per-year pellet plant’s manufacturing operations, and excess heat will be used to fuel 10 acres of local greenhouses. Electricity produced will be enough to power 34,000 homes. 

The company had proposed an additional plant in Pownal, Vt., about 70 miles north of Fair Haven, but placed it on hold indefinitely in early 2011.