SDS Lumber Co. is moving fast to bring new power generation systems on line in Bingen.
Last week, SDS President Jason Spadaro told members of the Bingen City Council that three portable diesel power generators were ready to be switched on and start producing electricity as of April 18.
The generators will operate under a temporary Washington Department of Ecology air quality permit that is good for a maximum of 12 months.
SDS also is bringing a portable boiler to the mill site. The boiler will be used with the existing SDS cogeneration plant, known as the hog-fuel boiler, which burns wood waste as its primary fuel source.
The new, portable boiler will run primarily on natural gas, but diesel fuel will be used as a backup source.
"We won't run it 100 percent on natural gas," Spadaro said. "In winter, gas demands go up, and Northwest Natural may cut us back. Then we'll use more diesel."
As with the portable diesel units, the new boiler has been granted a 12-month air quality permit from DOE.
"We have two projects going on," Spadaro explained. "We've sent excess steam to make electricity since the 1970s, and are adding to that with a portable boiler. That will firm up the volume of electricity we produce."
SDS plans to eventually operate a total of five portable diesel generators at the mill site.
"We'll have three to start, then bring in another two later in the summer," Spadaro explained.
Both projects have gained approval from the Klickitat County Planning Department, which has issued "mitigated determinations of non-significance" (MDNS) for the projects.
Dixie Thiesies, a member of the Bingen City Council, asked Spadaro why the five diesel generators were being brought in.
"Is it to generate additional electricity for the mill itself?" Thiesies asked.
"Not only for ourselves, but the Klickitat Public Utility District will market the electricity through their channels," Spadaro said. "It's an opportunity to sell any excess power that's available. We're ready to tie in to the PUD system as of April 18."
Spadaro added that by selling the power to the PUD, the PUD would in turn be able to keep energy rates lower for customers in Klickitat County.
Richard Reiten, CEO of NW Natural, said arrangements such as SDS is working on could have multiple benefits.
"In the current environment of electricity shortages, we need to find more win-win solutions like this," Reiten said. "If we work together and creatively explore the opportunities that exist, we can both reduce the risk of shortages and hold prices down."
Spadaro pointed out that noise from the diesel generators would not be significant, because they are housed in sound-controlled containers.
"The maximum noise level is 70 decibels at the property line. We'll easily meet the state requirements, because the portable boiler is 56 decibels," Spadaro explained.
Thiesies also inquired about the nature of the permit to operate the generators.
"Are there provisions for extension of the air quality permit?" she asked.
"No, not as they are right now. Not unless we take them off-site and bring in something new," Spadaro responded. "We're expecting our permit issued next week. We'll be operating about one week without a permit, under the governor's (emergency) order."
Eric Greene, owner of the Bingen House Bed & Breakfast -- the residence closest to where the SDS generators were sited -- said the new operation has not created a problem.
"I have not heard the generators running, and I haven't noticed any more soot," Greene said. "I've got nothing to complain about."
Spadaro said he hoped Bingen's council members would trust DOE to ensure there was no degradation of air quality as a result of the new energy projects.
"I'm hoping that DOE's temporary air permit eases that concern," he added.
Bingen Mayor Brian Prigel pointed out to members of the City Council that Bingen's zoning ordinances allow cogeneration and diesel generators outright in the city's heavy industrial zones.
"There are no ordinances in the city that govern this type of project," Prigel explained. "Basically we have to leave it up to DOE to monitor. We really don't have any say."
Spadaro noted that SDS will store additional diesel fuel at the mill to feed the generators and the boiler.
"We'll add a 16,000-gallon tank for the generators and another 16,000-gallon tank for the boiler," Spadaro said.
Spadaro described the new fuel reservoirs as "above ground, double-walled tanks."