The funding will allow the 75MW biomass power plant, located on a former pulp and paper mill site, to use energy from its steam condenser cooling water circuit to heat a $25 million hydroponic greenhouse that will be co-located on the plant’s property.
Bringing more jobs and tax dollars to Berlin has been an important goal for the company, says Dammon Frecker, executive vice president of CS Operations, the firm that manages the plant. “We laid out our site very intentionally to provide space for other entities that might have synergy,” he said. “We are excited about the opportunity for public/private partnerships with the city and other companies for co-development to do something sustainable.”
The recovery system will repurpose heated water that’s created by Burgess’s cooling water circuit. Water will be piped to the greenhouse to heat the facility, allowing it to grow produce year-round. The greenhouse is expected to grow baby leafy greens, such as spinach, arugula and kale. Frecker said the company has been in talks with a grower for about a year, but is not ready to publicly announce the grower.
The fuel source is wood chips. “We have the lowest emissions of just about any biomass plant in the country and believe we are a clean and renewable source. We are excited about the sustainability aspects to this project,” said Frecker. “By doing the project with a greenhouse and further capturing the heat, we could reduce greenhouse gas by more than 5,000 tons, reduce water consumption by 6 million gallons [annually] and help the state achieve its renewable biomass portfolio goals.”
The grant was the result of a competitive PUC application process initiated last October to increase thermal renewable energy generation using money from the state’s Renewable Energy Fund.
Burgess BioPower currently employs 27 at the Berlin plant and contributes to the local economy, in particular through its payments-in-lieu-of-taxes to the City of Berlin totaling $1,150,000 in FY 2019. An economic impact study released in 2017 reported Burgess BioPower supports 184 jobs in Coös County, of which about 43% are in the logging and sawmill industry.