By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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The ceremony for the upgraded boiler, which will burn forest slash and other woody debris, is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 1 at the paper-making plant at the base off Ediz Hook.
“It's a private function,” company Manager Harold Norlund said last week, adding that local elected officials are on the guest list.
“Selected individuals have been invited.”
Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith confirmed that the governor will attend.
“Nippon's new biomass cogeneration plant is great news for Port Angeles,” she said.
“The governor is looking forward to celebrating both the new jobs and the new source of renewable power this brings to Washington.”
It is believed to be Inslee's first appearance on the North Olympic Peninsula since his inauguration as governor.
Nippon has received public money for the $85 million project, which will generate 20 megawatts of electricity.
It came in the form of a $1.4 million loan and a $600,000 grant from state-administered federal stimulus funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Norlund said he expects the company will apply for more stimulus money to cover capital costs.
Tests on the cogeneration plant's systems have been ongoing since late August.
“We're still doing fine-tuning,” Norlund said.
“We're a good 75 percent into the commissioning of it.
“As to when and which hour of the day in November that we will start putting electricity out, it could be sometime close.
“It could be a few days after Nov. 1, it could be a week or two, but it will be close.”
The project, under construction for more than two years, has been the target of numerous unsuccessful environmental challenges over air quality and the ultrafine particulates created by biomass burning that the plant will emit.
Ultrafine particles, particulates 0.1 microns or smaller created during biomass combustion, can damage health, biomass project opponents say.
Such small particles are not regulated separately by the federal Environmental Protection Agency or the state Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, or ORCAA, which oversees air quality in a six-county region that includes the North Olympic Peninsula.
Port Townsend Paper Corp.'s $55 million, 24-megawatt biomass cogeneration expansion, which also came under fire from environmentalists for similar reasons, has been delayed until 2014 or 2015.
Nippon Paper Industries, a Japanese-owned company, has installed state-of-the-art pollution-control equipment and complied with all state and federal laws to build a project that is based on “green energy” Norlund said Friday.
It's green because the plant will burn biomass, or woody debris, to generate electricity, he said.
The steam that's generated will be used to make paper at the plant, while the electricity it produces will be sold for credits.
“Cogeneration is far more efficient than many other forms of energy production,” Norlund said.
“Many plants have just a boiler and no turbine, or nothing to use the steam.
“We have both.”
The project has upgraded Nippon's 1950s-era biomass-burning boiler. Once it is online, the mill will double the amount of biomass it burns.
Other attendees expected at the November ribbon-cutting include Mayor Cherie Kidd and Clallam County Commissioners Jim McEntire, Mike Chapman and Mike Doherty, who also sits on the board of ORCCA, which will be monitoring the plant's air emissions.
“Over four or five years, I've been generally supportive [of the project] as an alternative energy source,” Doherty said Friday.
Air quality “is a concern, and we'll see how that goes and learn what the facts are,” he added.
“It certainly beats open burning and slash piles in the woods if we can burn in a controlled environment in the latest, best technology.”
Kidd also said she was looking forward to the event.
“I'm excited about the largest financial investment . . . in the history of industry in Port Angeles,” Kidd said.
The official start-up of the plant will be accomplished later in November by entering information on a computer, Norlund said.
The steam created will spin blades in the aircraft-engine-like turbine to create electricity, Norlund said.
“Think of it as a turbine connected to a motor,” he said.
The turbine and condenser combined are about 30 feet long and 5 feet tall.
“Development of renewable energy is important to this governor and was important to past governors,” Norlund said.
“This is a sizable investment for Port Angeles, and the investment is better for the environment.
“It shuts down the old biomass boiler and starts a new one. It creates a lot of jobs in construction and will help create and retain jobs in the future.
“I think the governor and other elected officials realize that.”
The electricity it generates will be used for the plant for two months, after which the power will be sold.
“Our intent is to sell all 20 megawatts,” Norlund said.
Information on the customers the power will be sold to is proprietary, Norlund said.
“I'm not going to talk about customers, but it will be sold,” he said.
The market is slow for selling electricity.
“The recession continues to be a drag on power consumption in the U.S.,” Norlund said.
Down, too, is the demand for the telephone-book paper and newsprint manufactured by Nippon, which also produces the newsprint used by the Peninsula Daily News.
“If your main business is declining, you have to come up with something else to do, add to your business, complement it or do something different to remain viable,” Norlund said.
“Cogeneration is a different business.
“You wouldn't get much support today for trying to build something to make more paper.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.