POINT TUPPER — The new biomass-fuelled Nova Scotia Power co-generation plant is now humming at full capacity at the Port Hawkesbury Paper site in Point Tupper.
Mark Sidebottom, NSP’s vice-president of power generation and delivery, said on Tuesday the commissioning comes after a 120-hour final testing process last week.
The plant has been under construction for two years and the commissioning process has taken the last six months. The $200-million project came in on budget as expected.
He said it’s expected to produce between three and four per cent of the province’s overall energy needs.
It’s also expected to reach between nine and 12 per cent of NSP’s renewable energy strategy, Sidebottom added.
“It’s coming on just in time for the requirements of 2013, and of course it will continue to supply renewable energy well into the future,” he said.
The provincial government has set the standard for total renewable energy at 25 per cent of all electricity consumed by 2015, and a target of 40 per cent renewable energy by 2020.
That includes a combination of sources involving hydro, wind, solar, tidal, biomass, as well as geothermal energy.
The facility will see biomass burned to generate about 60 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to power about 50,000 homes.
The utility is expected to buy roughly 650,000 tonnes of biomass fuel annually. That’s slightly less than 2,000 tonnes each day, Sidebottom said.
“Most of the biomass is being sourced from within Nova Scotia. A small percentage (20 per cent) of the fuel will be sourced from outside of the province because of existing opportunities to procure biomass at attractive pricing on behalf of customers.”
The plant systems involved include a cooling water system, electrical protection systems, mechanical systems and instrumentation. The testing involved bringing in representatives from some of the suppliers to ensure they are being operated properly.
A request for proposals for long-term suppliers of biomass fuel is expected to be awarded within the next couple of weeks, Sidebottom said.
Much of the fuel sourced during the start-up phase came from Port Hawkesbury Paper, he said.
He said the papermaker would continue to supply fuel to the plant so that it continues to produce steam for the mill.
Port Hawkesbury Paper is also in the running to supply biomass for the electricity production component of the plant.
About 30 full-time positions have been created from the operation of the biomass plant. Another 200 people employed in procurement, tree harvesting, and trucking will benefit from its operation as well.
Environmental groups have raised concerns about the potential of increased clear cutting.
They have also said the project will increase the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the province and that it won't reduce the amount of coal burned for electricity in Nova Scotia.
The biomass plant was a couple of months behind its original timetable due to a delay when NewPage Port Hawkesbury, which was going to construct and operate the facility for NSP, shut down indefinitely and entered creditor protection.
NSP subsequently took over control of the project and NewPage's assets were sold to a company affiliated with Stern Partners, and the mill was renamed Port Hawkesbury Paper.