Between today and yesterday I talked to people at the PUC, PSNH, Laidlaw, CPD and more. I made phone calls all the way to Florida, and I’ve been waiting for calls and missing calls from people at almost every agency. I’ve got reports from Massachusetts and New York universities about biomass sitting on my desktop, and I’ve been immersed in them to better understand the issues and factors involved in power.
I was talking to a biomass plant in Florida when PSNH called. I was talking to PSNH when Laidlaw called. I’ve got letters and responses from everyone around the region with an interest in electricity, and I have facts and figures from independent resources on how every aspect of a biomass affects communities and what the costs are.
I was talking to my editor today about electricity in the North Country and how prominent a feature it will be in the region’s future. I wonder if the Reporter should hire an engineer, not a reporter.
But I stumbled on something cool, and I don’t know how much of it will be in the paper. Here it is:
In Florida is one of the few biomass plants bigger than the proposed Laidlaw plant. It is 140 megawatts, and it goes through 2 million tons of fuel each year.
But here’s the crazy thing: electricity generation is a side business for Florida Crystals. Their main product is sugar.
“We’re able to offer a product no one else can offer with carbon free sugar,” said Gaston Cantens, vice president of corporate relations for Florida Crystals.
Their plant sits in the center of a 150,000 acre sugar plantation, and half their biomass, or 1 million tons, is waste sugar cane fiber.
The rest they get from local municipalities. They burn wood of any kind, including hurricane debris.
The plant has three boilers, and they are working to build a fourth. It is a cogeneration facility; they produce steam to run the sugar mill and the refinery. The excess they use for electricity, and it powers 60,000 homes.
“We’re the largest biomass fuel power plant in North America, as far as we can tell,” Mr. Cantens said.
I looked at their business model and was just blown away. They are pairing two industries, utilizing an existing resource, and diverting 2 million tons of material that otherwise would make it into a landfill. Great stuff!
I’m going to try to pitch this to some national news outlets, see if they’re interested in telling the story more in depth. I thought it was cool.