Palmer Renewable Energy's plans to build 35-MW biomass power plant in East Springfield, Massachusetts, moving ahead despite state's proposed tougher rules for large-scale wood-burning plants, critic says

LOS ANGELES , May 11, 2011 () – Despite tougher rules proposed in Massachusetts for large-scale wood-burning plants, Palmer Renewable Energy LLC is moving “full steam ahead” with its plans to build a 35-megawatt (MW) biomass power plant in East Springfield, Massachusetts, said a representative of a group opposing the project, reported The Republican on May 10.

The project is neither halted nor delayed, said Lee Ann Warner, a member of Stop Toxic Incineration in Springfield, in a statement.

Palmer Renewable Energy’s attorney, Frank P. Fitzgerald declined to comment on the proposed regulations’ effect on the project other than to say that the company would look at “its impact on our present model” and intends to file a response to the state, The Republican reported.

The project is “significantly different” than the study of harvested trees on which the newly proposed regulations were based, as the plans deal with “green tree trimmings, not harvesting,” said Fitzgerald.

At a hearing on May 17, Springfield’s city council will consider revoking a 2008 special permit for the Palmer Renewable Energy plant. The company has threatened to take legal action if the permit is revoked, reported The Republican.

The newly proposed rules don’t ban development or impede permitting of biomass plants, but “set a high bar” for qualifying for the state’s renewable energy credits, according to a press release from the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Under the state’s proposed rules announced last week, plants must burn at an overall efficiency rate of 40% per megawatt hour (MwH) of generation to earn one-half renewable energy credit and at 60%/MwH for a full credit, The Republican reported.

Large wood-burning electricity generators also would be required to meet strict greenhouse gas emissions standards to obtain clean energy financing, according to the state agency.

In addition to the Springfield plant, biomass projects are proposed in Russell and Greenfield, Massachusetts, reported The Republican.

Palmer Paving Corp. is the owner of the site in Springfield for the proposed biomass-to-power project, according to the company’s website. Canton, Massachusetts-based Caletta Renewable Energy LLC, which is a partnership between Palmer Paving and Barletta Engineering Corp., is currently involved with local partners in three other projects besides the one in Springfield.

These include the Erie Renewable Energy LLC project in Erie, Pennsylvania, that plans to generate 35 MW of power from 800 tons per day of wood-derived fuel; and the Jefferson Renewable Energy LLC project in Johnston, Rhode Island, that would use 3,000 tons/day of fuel derived from commercial and municipal solid waste, tires and methane gas, to produce 90 MW of power, according to the website.

Caletta sad that it’s developing similar projects in Las Vegas, Nevada; Little Rock, Arkansas; Toa Bora, Puerto Rica; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; and Weirton, West Virginia.

The primary source of this article is The Republican, Springfield, Massachusetts, on May 10, 2011.

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