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December 11. 2012 9:29PM

Lynch finds Berlin bustling


Gov. John Lynch, right, chats with workers at the Burgess BioPower site in Berlin. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX/Union Leader correspondent)

BERLIN - Gov. John Lynch came to the Androscoggin Valley Tuesday, an area where he has spent considerable time during his four terms in the state's highest office.

He returned to the former site of the Burgess Pulp Mill, a site now being redeveloped by Cate Street Capital into the wood-to-energy Burgess BioPower facility.

Lynch last visited the site in July, when much of the work being done was earthwork. At the time, there were 225 workers on site. Now, Cate Street Capital managing director Alexandra Ritchie said, there are over 400 workers on site.

"All the major foundations are in place," Carl Belanger, site manager, said. The siding is going up on the building which will house the generator, compressor and turbine.

The turbine arrived on site Dec. 5. The generator is due to arrive on Friday, following the same route from Searsport, Maine, as the turbine, with the transportation from Japan to Berlin facilitated by Fracht USA.

"I can't believe all the activity, it's amazing," Lynch said as he looked down upon the heart of the biomass site. Lynch asked if there had been any surprises during the $275 million construction project. The plant will generate 75 megawatts of biomass energy from wood chips and logging waste.Ritchie replied, "It's been cheaper and gone quicker than expected."

Belanger, who has worked at the site for more than three decades under different owners, said they ran into ledges and old foundations during excavation.

Lynch seemed most interested in how the project has affected the region and its people.

Ritchie said the contractors have hired local union members when they could. Belanger said the workers from out of town fill the local hotels, with some workers opting to buy or rent housing during their stay. He added that Babcock and Wilcox Co. books 89 rooms a month at the Town and Country in Gorham.

When construction is complete, those workers will go away, but then the region's truckers and loggers will benefit.

Matt Grader, forestry program manager for Burgess BioPower, said the plant will draw the low-grade wood for fuel from a 100-mile radius. He said they should have wood on site in mid-summer 2013, and run it with a 30-day supply on site during most of the year, with 45-day supplies in the mud seasons.

He said that with climate change, there is now a fall mud season, as well as one in the early spring.

The company has contracted with Richard Carrier Trucking for its wood supply, and has a 20-year agreement with Public Service of New Hampshire for the utility to purchase the power it will generate.

Ground was broken for the plant in October 2011.

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Sara Young-Knox may be reached at syoungknox@newstote.com.


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