Two Prince George bioenergy projects that made B.C. Hydro's first call to produce energy from wood waste have been given the OK by the province's energy regulator

The B.C. Utilities Commission has approved the electricity purchase agreements for Canfor Pulp’s electricity project at its P.G. Pulp and Paper mill, and for the P.G. Interior Waste to Energy’s project.

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The utilities’ commission decision moves at least one of the projects much closer to power production. The Canfor Pulp project is anticipated to begin producing electricity under the agreement by next month.
The infrastructure at the pulp milll — including about $2 million in upgrades made in 2008 — is already in place to produce power. In fact, crews ran a 72-hour test this past weekend to ensure they can produce the agreed-to power level. Canfor Pulp vice-president of operations Brett Robinson is confident they met the test, which needs to be checked by B.C. Hydro. “It’s a very exciting thing for us,” said Robinson, who noted that while the pulp mills have been producing electricity for 50 years this is the first time they will be selling into the Hydro grid. Not only will the project help utilize the increased wood waste from the pine beetle epidemic, it provides a second income stream for the company, noted Robinson.

Although the power project is a modest one, Canfor Pulp is viewing it as a learning experience, an effort to gain knowledge in selling power and utilizing the beetle wood waste, said Robinson. If it goes well, there is a provision in their agreement with B.C. Hydro that allows them to increase the amount of electricity they sell, he said. Robinson noted that there is a chance that increased power generation will also allow them to add an electrostatic precipitator to an older power boiler. The precipitator is state-of-the-art air pollution technology that cuts down the amount of fine particulate emissions, considered the leading air pollution concern in Prince George. The partners in the PG Interior Waste to Energy $50-million project had said recently they were waiting for the utilities commission ruling before beginning construction. The partners — which include Gregory Deron of Victoria-based Organic Power Technologies and Grant and Mark Dakus who own the P.G. Sort Yard. — could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The project, expected to create at 65 to 75 jobs, is to be built on the site of the old Netherlands sawmill in the BCR industrial site. The new bioenergy plant is meant to produce eight megawatts of power, as well as charcoal and bio-oil. The plant will be fuelled largely by logging debris, which is normally burned in slash piles on logging blocks. During an announcement in April, the company said the plant, to be built in modules. It was expected to begin producing electricity in the spring of 2010 and be fully operational by the spring of the next year. The project requires an air pollution emission permit, a process that would take months, B.C. Ministry of Environment officials have said. The B.C. Ministry of Environment’s Prince George office said Wednesday the company has not applied for the permit yet.

Two other bioenergy projects were also given the green light by the utilities commission — pulp mill projects in Kamloops and Castlegar. The cost to the province ranges between $107 and $114 per megawatt/h“Bioenergy will contribute to the province’s goal of achieving electricity self-sufficiency by 2016, while at the same time provide an opportunity to create new jobs and diversify the forest economy through the better use of residual wood that currently goes to waste,”our for the four projects, according to B.C. Hydro. That cost includes the price paid to the bioenergy producers and transmission costs. The bioenergy price is higher than the $88 per hour awarded in a 2006 call for independent power projects, or the $81 cost tabbed for a recent $95-million rebuild of the Aberfeldie hydro generation station near Cranbrook.

The four projects will produce enough electricity to power more than 52,000 homes each year. B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell first outlined the province’s new bioenergy strategy 18 months ago in Prince George.
The first phase of the B.C. Hydro bioenergy call for power was open to projects that did not need new forestry tenure. In March, B.C. Hydro launched the second phase of the bioenergy call, which will include projects utilizing wood waste sourced from new forest tenure. “Bioenergy will contribute to the province’s goal of achieving electricity self-sufficiency by 2016, while at the same time provide an opportunity to create new jobs and diversify the forest economy through the better use of residual wood that currently goes to waste,” said Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom.
Added B.C. Hydro president and CEO Bob Elton: “These bioenergy projects will provide firm electricity year-round by utilizing a carbon-neutral fuel – giving us another reliable, clean energy supply option to help serve our customers.”

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