Boralex-Chateaugay Open House August 25, 2011
COMPANIES WORK TOGETHER TO GENERATE CLEAN ELECTRICITY WITH MINIMAL WASTE
By Dan Heath
Press-Republican Plattsburgh Press Republican Sun Sep 04, 2011, 03:28 AM EDT
CHATEAUGAY — Two companies are working to together to produce electricity with minimal waste and emissions in Chateaugay.
Boralex Chateaugay Operations Manager Mark Aanderud said the wood-fired energy-generation plant was built in 1991-92 and started commercial operation in 1993. It is capable of producing 20 megawatts of power a day, of which up to 2 megawatts is used at the plant and the rest is sold to the New York Independent System Operator.
The plant runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are 21 full-time employees and about 100 indirect employees such as wood suppliers, haulers and those at Holderness, N.H.-based Resource Management, which markets the wood ash by-product as a soil additive and fertilizer.
The wood chips arrive by tractor trailer, about 30-40 truck loads a day. Each tractor-trailer load holds 25 to 30 tons of wood scraps.
The trailer is attached to a hydraulic ramp, which raises it to near vertical to dump the wood scraps. Those are moved and mixed by bulldozer to keep the wood scrap at a consistent quality.
The wood is then carried by conveyor to the top of the large A-frame storage structure. Screw conveyors at the bottom of that structure load the wood pieces on a conveyor belt that brings them to the boiler metering bin at the top of the plant.
The tour started in the plant's control room. Control Room Operator Shawn Warner was monitoring several screens to get readings used to make adjustments to keep the entire plant operating at peak efficiency.
Aanderud said emissions are minimal.
"We have to control our emissions on a minute-by-minute basis," he said.
That includes filing a report with the state if those emissions exceed a certain level, which can lead to a fine.
The metering bin holds about one hour's worth of wood. It is pushed into the boiler and spread for even burning.
The boiler burns 700 tons of wood each day, from about 20 local suppliers. The wood is small branches and pieces not suitable for other uses.
The furnace section reaches temperatures between 1,800 and 2,000 degrees. As the wood turns to ash, it goes to the bottom of the furnace and is mixed with water to cool before it's shipped away.
The fire heats the water in the boiler to 950 degrees at 1,250 pounds of pressure, which produces 160,000 pounds of steam an hour.
The wet steam is converted to dry steam before it is used to power turbines, where it passes through a series of blades to generate electricity.
The steam then travels to a holding area with a condenser that converts it back to water. It is treated, then held until it is sent back to the boiler and the process starts again.
Resource Management Inc. President Shelagh Connelly said the company sells the wood ash to farmers in the North Country to use as fertilizer, brand name Heart and Soil Bulk pH Plus.
Connelly said they have a good market in the North Country, with about 100 customers a year. The product is popular because it is certified organic.
Farmers also realize a financial benefit, she said, as the price of potassium fertilizer has tripled in the last four years.
"This is a very economic product for them," Connelly said.
The high pH ash helps increase those levels in the soil, which tends acidic (low pH) in the North Country. A company fact sheet states the product also provides micro-nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, iron and boron that are essential for plant growth.
Heart and Soil Bulk pH Plus is USDA certified and approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute and the Northeast Organic Farming Association for use by organic growers.
Most of their customers spread about 2 1/2 tons per acre, which can be done using traditional manure- tospreading equipment.
She said they take a sample from each truck load. Those are tested monthly.
Connelly said there are about a dozen such plants scattered throughout New England. Most were built during the energy crisis of the 1970s.
She said the plants are unique to New England, where there is plenty of waste wood fuel available.
"It's nice to be able to produce electricity from resources in our backyard," Connelly said.
Resource Management, based in Holderness, N.H., works with seven other plants in New England, she said, and has a strong market around each. In the North Country, it is particularly popular with the Amish.
"Initially, the market wasn't huge. Now, we have a waiting list," Connelly said.
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