Biomass Co-generation Facility Breaks Ground in Oregon

Whether to use woody biomass to produce heat or power is an issue that has been widely debated in renewable energy circles. Critics of biomass power initiatives claim that burning wood to create electricity wastes much of what the resource is best suited for, which is heat. Indeed industry associations like the Biomass Thermal Energy Council (BTEC) have been formed over the past few years around the topic of using biomass energy exclusively for heat.

Yet at the same time, utilities wishing to diversify their fuel supplies see replacing coal with biomass as a fairly simple way to reduce CO2 emissions and “green up” their electricity portfolios.  Announcements of initiatives like this have been made in Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin and other areas. 

What the bioenergy industry can agree on, however, is that when you burn woody biomass to produce heat AND power, you maximize the feedstock’s efficiency and are making the best use of a limited resource.

That is exactly the kind of plant that Iberdrola Renewables is building in Lakeview Oregon where construction has just begun.

The 26.8 MW project is expected to create as many as 200 construction jobs during the almost two-year timeframe it will take to complete the plant.  The company says it expects to complete the project by the fall of 2012.

The Lakeview project will be a combined heat and power – or cogeneration – facility and the plant will be air-cooled – reducing water use by more than 80 percent as compared to conventional water cooling, according to the company.

Collins Pine Company will provide fuel from a combination of logging and sawmill residuals from its Fremont Sawmill. Collins’ Lakeview forest operations – where much of the plant’s fuel will come from – have been independently certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) as consistent with their standards for forest management practices. Collins will also purchase the equivalent of two megawatts of steam from the project to run their lumber drying process more efficiently and with lower air emissions. The Fremont Sawmill is directly adjacent to the biomass plant’s 55-acre site.

The Lakeview Plant is located 20 miles from California close to major transmission facilities. Iberdrola Renewables’ expects strong interest from its public and private utility customers as they seek to diversify their renewable energy supplies. Previously the company negotiated the long-term sale of the output from a 55-MW biomass cogeneration plant in Tacoma, Wash., to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD).

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