May 5, 2007

Clean Wood replaces Coal Power Plant in N.H.

When it comes to producing electricity, it isn't necessary to convert the feedstock to ethanol or syngas or even invest in gasification or pyrolysis burners. Advanced wood boilers meet the EPA standards and provide a clean renewable alternative to dirty, carbon-positive coal boilers of the past.

Here is the press release from Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH). It is New Hampshire's largest electric utility, generating and distributing clean electricity for more than 490,000 homes and businesses in an environmentally friendly manner. Each year, PSNH supports dozens of forest protection, energy conservation, and environmental organizations through both financial contributions and employee volunteerism.

There is a YouTube video of this project available online.

Officials Celebrate Northern Wood Power

One of the nation’s newest and largest renewable energy projects was officially recognized today as environmental, political and utility leaders celebrated the completion of Public Service of New Hampshire’s (PSNH) Northern Wood Power Project. The $75 million project includes a new 50 megawatt wood-burning boiler which replaced a coal-burning boiler of identical size.
The new PSNH boiler, capable of producing power for about 50-thousand typical homes, is expected to consume more than 450-thousand tons of clean wood chips annually, significantly reduce emissions at the Seacoast power plant, and contribute about $20 million a year to the regional economy.

“In completing this project, PSNH has demonstrated its ability to build and operate the state’s largest and cleanest biomass power plant,” said Chuck Shivery, president and chief executive officer of Northeast Utilities, PSNH’s parent corporation. “It achieved this accomplishment on time, under budget, and in a way that has kept electric rates low and stable for its customers.”

Northern Wood Power began official operations last December and has, since that time, received clean wood chips from licensed loggers and certified suppliers in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts.

“A little over three years ago, Northern Wood Power was just an idea, a vision for the future that PSNH brought to state legislators with the promise of lower emissions, a stronger forestry industry, and low electric rates for New Hampshire homes and businesses,” said Gary Long, PSNH president and chief operating officer. “We’ve demonstrated that PSNH can be part of the solution in helping New Hampshire become the ‘greenest’ power-producing state in the nation while maintaining a significant price advantage for our 490,000 customers.”

Environmental Benefits
Northern Wood Power is reportedly the largest coal-to-wood repowering conversion in the nation. It is also one of the lowest-emitting power plants in New England today, not only meeting but exceeding all US Environmental Protection Agency emissions standards for new power plants. The plant achieves these results through a state-of-the-art, fluidized-bed boiler combustion system, an advanced combustion technology which burns fuel more completely and substantially limits the production of nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and Mercury (Hg) emissions. Northern Wood Power is also considered ‘carbon neutral,’ meaning that no additional net carbon (CO2) is released into the atmosphere by the burning of wood.

Economic Benefits
There are a number of substantial economic benefits associated with PSNH’s new wood-fired power plant. The plant produces power for PSNH customers at a lower cost when compared to the price of energy offered through the regional marketplace. Northern Wood Power also produces ‘Renewable Energy Certificates,’ which PSNH sells in a regional market to suppliers and utilities without sufficient renewable resources of their own. The proceeds of the sale of RECs is used to offset the project’s capital costs and keep PSNH customer rates low.

Further, the company’s switch to wood has eliminated the need to burn more than 130,000 tons of coal annually. The money paid for fuel now remains in New England, contributing an estimated $20 million annually to the area economy.

More Wood to Come?
PSNH’s Gary Long and NU’s Chuck Shivery both spoke of the need in New England for additional sources of new renewable energy and expressed their desire to invest in more regulated generation to help meet that need. Current state law prohibits PSNH and other regulated electric utilities from acquiring or building any new renewable sources of generation, but legislators are considering modifying the law to allow such a proposal to be made.

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