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Progress made at new Berlin biomass power plant

Union Leader Correspondent

May 03. 2012 11:37PM

BERLIN - Sidewalk engineers will have plenty to watch this spring and summer as the big project in the heart of the city ramps up its construction.

The green energy project on the banks of the Androscoggin River just north of downtown is moving forward, with the contractors adding more employees as work on the multi-million dollar project continues.

Demolition work on the old boiler at the former Burgess Pulp Mill site, now the home of Cate Street Capital's 75-megawatt Burgess BioPower plant, is complete, said Cate Street spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne.

The new technology to retrofit the boiler for its new use will be brought in soon. Steel for the turbine buildings is coming to the site in the next few weeks as well.

Over the next two weeks, 50 more workers will be added to the work site project, as the new civil contractor, Mascaro Construction Co. of Pittsburg, Pa., resumes excavation and foundation work for the turbine building.

Mascaro is taking over from Francis Harvey & Sons of Worcester, Mass. Tranchemontagne said that work did not stop, but there was some transitioning.

Tranchemontagne said that even more workers will be added starting in June through the construction season. The schedule for the ramp-up won't be available until mid-May.

While many workers may not be from the area, their presence in the Androscoggin Valley adds to the cash flow of local businesses, as there are more people who need food and lodging and other services.

Berlin's unemployment rate in March went up slightly from February to 9.3 percent. While the number of unemployed grew by 30 workers, so did the number of employed workers, and the size of the labor force as a whole increased.

According to the state Labor Market Information Bureau, the local labor force in the Berlin area is 7,140, with 6,470 employed. In January, the labor force was 6,960, with 6,300 employed.

The Cate Street project isn't the only site adding workers. The new federal prison continues to hire employees and to bring employees in as it works toward opening.

When the Burgess BioPower electricity-generating facility is online, it will directly employ 40.

The plant will burn about 750,000 tons of low-grade wood per year. That consumption is expected to pump roughly $25 million into the North Country economy, as foresters, loggers and chippers work to meet the demand for the fuel stock.

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