PSNH to buy power from Berlin plant


Public Service of New Hampshire has agreed to purchase energy generated from Laidlaw Berlin BioPower LLC's proposed wood-fired power plant at the site of the former Fraser Papers mill in Berlin.The facility is expected to generate 70 megawatts of electricity, making it the largest wood-burning power facility in the state when it is built. The fuel will be wood chips from lumber processing plants in the region.The utility said in a press release that after the plant goes online, "PSNH will have arguably the highest percent of renewable energy of any electric utility in New England, with approximately 26 percent of the energy it supplies to its customers being renewable energy generated by PSNH itself or by independent New Hampshire resources selling energy to PSNH."Gary Long, president of PSNH, said the company is "committed to growing our portfolio of renewable energy, and the Laidlaw biomass plant will take us a significant step forward toward meeting the state's Renewable Portfolio Standards mandate."In 2006, Gov. John Lynch announced the state’s Renewable Energy Initiative, with the goal of obtaining 25 percent of its energy from clean, renewable sources by the year 2025. Michael Bartoszek, Laidlaw Berlin BioPower president, said the agreement with PSNH "is an affirmation of the hard work of many to ensure that we have a solid plan with which to move forward."Laidlaw is only one of the companies planning renewable energy plants in the North Country. The company has an edge on the others because of its PSNH agreement and another to supply hot water and steam to the newly renamed North Woods Paper mill in Gorham, which was recently acquired by MerchantBanc, a Manchester investment firm, from Fraser Papers.But the company faces limitations -- namely, the existing capacity to transmit electricity through the Coos County loop and the supply of limited suitable wood for fuel.Laidlaw says that there is plenty of fuel in the North Country and enough capacity for the 66-megawatt plant without an expensive expansion of the loop, but its rivals disagree.In January, Laidlaw announced that the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee had accepted its permit application, and had eight months to make a decision on a permit. -- CINDY KIBBE/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW
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