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Plans to build Berlin Station Biomass Plant remain alive

Union Leader Correspondent

July 21. 2011 10:18PM
The facilities at the former pulp mill in Berlin, which supplied pulp to the Gorham paper mill until 2006, sit waiting to be retrofitted as a biomass plant. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX)

BERLIN - It appears the effort to build the 75-megawatt Berlin Station Biomass Plant is not dead in the water. A spokesman for Cate Street Capital of Portsmouth, developers of the project on the former pulp mill site in Berlin, released a statement Thursday indicating there is still a chance the project could proceed.

"We can confirm that Cate Street Capital has engaged in additional discussions, at the request of Governor John Lynch and his dedicated team of staffers, department heads and professionals at the Public Utilities Commission. Cate Street Capital remains committed to exploring all potential solutions that would allow the $274 million Berlin Station Biomass Plant to proceed, which would save existing North Country jobs, create more than 400 new ones, and inject $25 million annually into the New Hampshire forest products industry," said Scott Tranchemontagne of Montagne Communications, which is handling the media for Cate Street.

Tranchemontagne would give no further information.

Three weeks ago Cate Street broke off talks with the state's six independent wood-burning power producers (IPP), saying that the company had a June 30 deadline to come to an agreement that would include the IPP dropping the state Supreme Court case. At the time, Tranchemontagne charged that the IPP were making demands over and above the 20-month power purchase agreements (PPA) they had wanted with Public Service of New Hampshire.

Representatives from several of the IPP members denied those charges.

To make the project financially feasible, it was necessary for Berlin Station to have a long-term power purchase agreement with Public Service of New Hampshire. The Public Utility Commission agreed to an amended 20-year agreement, which the IPP challenged. The PUC rejected their appeal. The IPP then took the appeal to the state Supreme Court. Cate Street, the IPP, Public Service of New Hampshire, and state officials had met several times in May and June to try to iron out a deal.

The smaller biomass companies are Bridgewater Power Company L.P., Pinetree Power Inc., Pinetree Power-Tamworth, Inc., Springfield Power LLC, Whitefield Power & Light Company, and Indeck Energy Alexandra. Bridgewater is owned by Public Service Enterprise Group of New Jersey; the Pinetree plants are owned by GDF Suez of Paris, France; Whitefield and Springfield Power are owned by Korea East-West Power Company of Korea; and Indeck Alexandria is owned by Indeck Energy, Inc., of Illinois.

Shortly after the June deadline had passed, Tranchemontagne said the Cate Street Capital professionals were "extremely creative," but without a deal with the IPPs by the date set, it "made this project impossible to finance." The project has contracts in place, and needs to get started this construction season.

Last week Terry Williams, president and CEO of EWP Renewable Corp, questioned how solid that deadline was.

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