- Author: Gareth J Mayhead
In late October I was fortunate to visit with the team behind the upcoming restart of the Ultrapower power plant located in Blue Lake, just off Highway 299, in Humboldt County.
Blue Lake Power overview: fuel conveyors in front, boiler on left, emissions control in middle, cooling system to right
Blue Lake Power purchased the facility, which has stood idle since 2001, from the previous owner North American Power Group (NAPG) in January 2008. NAPG maintained the equipment in operating condition through regular maintenance and care in how the facility was left (for example a dehumidifier was used to keep the turbine completely moisture free and the generator was turned monthly to ensure operational potential). Currently the facility is undergoing an extensive maintenance and refit operation including replacement of many of the boiler tubes. Operating and air quality permits are in place. They have a power purchase agreement with San Diego Gas and Electric.
The power plant is rated at 11 MW and will require 95,000 BDT of wood fuel. Sourcing will include chips (mill residuals and forest chips) and also other material that can be chipped on site. Pricing, of course, varies according to market conditions and material specification. They have been stockpiling fuel for a number of months. A pre-dryer will remove some moisture prior to combustion.
Fuel pile: note the colors and textures of the different fuels
They also have plans for a post and pole facility on an adjacent site which will complement the power plant by adding value to small logs with the residuals providing up to 25% of the fuel for the power plant. I will provide an update on this aspect of the project in the future.
The facility is scheduled to fire up in December 2008. This will be a welcome boost to the north coast woody biomass market after the curtailment of operations at Evergreen Pulp in October.
Close-up of the fuel pile, secondary processing residues to the left (consistent size, clean and low MC), forest sourced chips to the right (hetergeneous particle size, dirtier, higher MC)