Iberdrola's biomass move may clear the air

Iberdrola Renewables Inc. is inching toward a new biomass plant in Lakeview.

The development will be Iberdrola’s first ownership stake in a biomass plant and it has the potential to improve the small town’s air quality, which has been closely monitored by federal agencies for years.

The project, valued at $70 million by the town of Lakeview, is formally proposed as Lakeview Cogeneration LLC and would create a biomass-fired cogeneration power plant at the Collins Pine Company’s Fremont Sawmill.

The plant would generate up to 25 megawatts of electricity annually from steam produced in a biomass-fired boiler. The boiler would be fed with forest waste and trees thinned from the surrounding area, along with sawdust and bark from Fremont Sawmill, requiring about 160,000 tons of biomass annually.

About two megawatts of electricity produced would be used to operate the sawmill. The remainder (one megawatt of biomass supplies about 800 homes with electricity) would be sold to utilities on the West Coast, where a strong demand for renewable power is putting a premium on biomass and other "firm" renewables — energy produced by means not dependant on unpredictable factors like wind.

"It’s basically recycling. Biomass power plants are the renewable energy garbage man of the forest industry," said Jan Johnson, a spokeswoman for Iberdrola.

The Lakeview project, which Iberdrola bought earlier this year from the original developer, is Ibderdrola’s first, though the company markets the power generated by a Washington plant owned by Simpson Tacoma Kraft Company.

"I think we are interested in gaining experience in this field. It's kind of an emerging area for us," Johnson said.

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Lee van der Voo, lvdvoo*at*gmail.com, is a freelance writer for Sustainable Business Oregon.

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