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Deal Saves Berlin Biomass Project, Helps Small Plants
Chris Jensen for NHPR
Reports of the demise of a proposed biomass plant in Berlin were premature. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.
The proposed Berlin biomass plant – seen as a economic boost to the North Country - is alive again.
That news came in a new filing with the Public Utilities Commission.
The filing shows that a group of small wood-fired biomass plants has agreed to drop a legal challenge that could have torpedoed Cate Street Capital’s plan for the biomass plant.
That not only removes the legal challenge but makes it easier for Cate Street to obtain needed financing.
“Well, I am pretty excited. This is really the rebirth of Berlin’s blue-collar community.”
That’s Paul Grenier, the mayor of Berlin.
In addition to creating 40 full-time jobs the plant is expected to provide work for the logging industry.
Grenier says there is also a new multi-million dollar deal.
“The City of Berlin and Cate Street Capital recently agreed to a 22 and one-half year payment in lieu of tax agreements that will pay the city a minimum of $34 million and could pay upwards of $43 million over the life of the pilot agreement. So, that is pretty significant money for the community.”
In June the fear of a legal challenge from the six small plants caused Cate Street Capital to announce it was giving up on the biomass plant.
The challenge related to a 20-year contract approved by the PUC. It allows Public Service of New Hampshire to buy electricity from the Burgess BioPower plant.
Lawyers for the small power plants argued that part of the 20-year contract conflicted with state law. They were threatening to pursue their complaint before the Supreme Court.
In negotiations earlier this year Cate Street and PSNH wanted a promise from the small plants that they would drop the appeal.
The small plants were offered a two-year contract to sell their electricity to PSNH.
But a plant in Whitefield wouldn’t agree.
Cate Street then declared the Berlin project dead.
A second round of negotiations worked things out.
Under the new deal five plants will get contracts to sell electricity to PSNH. The contracts are for roughly two years and have a value of about $20 million.
That’s expected to cost the average household about 55 cents more each month.
At least on a short term the deal is also good news for the small plants, some of which have said they were in danger of going out of business.
The plants have about 100 employees in addition to providing work for the logging industry.
The deal still has to be approved by the PUC.