Northern Wood Power's impact on the environment is in the spotlightBy KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent
November 21. 2016 10:20PM
PORTSMOUTH — At Schiller Station in Portsmouth, Eversource officials are celebrating the 10th anniversary of Northern Wood Power, which has reduced CO2 emissions and supported hundreds of forestry-related jobs, even as the power company plans to auction off the plant.
Schiller is one of Eversource’s three fossil fuel plants to be sold in order to complete the restructuring of electricity markets as approved by lawmakers in the 1990s. The largest power plant owned by the utility is Merrimack Station in Bow, which burns coal to create 439 megawatts of electricity. Newington Station in Newington burns oil and natural gas, creating 400 megawatts of electricity. Schiller Station burns coal or oil in two units and wood chips in a third boiler to create 150 megawatts of electricity.
According to an order issued by the Public Utilities Commission Nov. 15, Round 1 bidders will be able to submit their qualifications this month. Preliminary nonbinding offers will be due in mid to late February. Round 2 bidders will be identified in early to mid-March. Final bids are due in May.
Because they burn coal, Merrimack Station and Schiller Station have been the long-time targets of environmental groups. But in celebrating their biomass achievements this week, Eversource officials highlighted the fact that since December of 2006, their CO2 emissions have been reduced by 3.5 million tons. By replacing a 50-megawatt coal-burning boiler with one designed to burn wood chips, the company eliminated the need to use more than 130,000 tons of coal every year.
The boiler has generated more than 3.1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, which is enough to power the city of Portsmouth for more than seven years.
In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, the project has supported hundreds of forestry-related jobs in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine. Northern Wood Power has accepted more than 5 million tons of wood fuel, at a value of over $157 million, Eversource Vice President of Generation Bill Smagula said in a statement issued Nov. 18.
“The goal of the project was to, in part, help the forest industry in New Hampshire,” Station Manager Dick Despins said in Portsmouth Friday.
Eversource takes 61 percent of its wood from New Hampshire, 29 percent from Massachusetts and 10 percent from Maine.
In Epsom Friday, the founder of Fort Mountain Companies and his crews were clearing land hit by a possible microburst earlier this year. Dozens of trees in Webster Park fell during the September storm. Jeff Eames said by turning the fallen trees into saw logs and wood chips, his company is saving the town over $50,000 in cleanup costs.
Tina Dyment was in charge of hauling loads of wood chips to Schiller Station in her tractor trailer. She said they make three trips a day between the park and Portsmouth during the workweek.
Each of Dyment’s loads is approximately 28 tons. It takes only 20 minutes to burn that much biomass at the station.
Forester Richard Roy said that may sound surprising, and said wood is the perfect reliable resource of renewable energy in New Hampshire.
“We’re growing more wood on a yearly basis than we’re harvesting,” Roy said.
The Northern Wood Power biomass unit has received awards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the NH Timberland Owners Association, and the Environment Business Council of New England. It received a New Hampshire Governor’s Award for Pollution Prevention.