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Hydro and gas-fired power permits under study by officials

Cogentrix Energy Inc., is not the only power company with plans for producing electricity in the region ... at least two other local proposals are being looked into

   Project manager Bob Smollack stands beside the power plant generator from which the armature has been removed and is being rebuilt. Nearly every piece of the steam generator plant that once powered the Pine Products Sawmill has been taken apart and rebuilt to today's standards and to code. When operational, the plant will produce about 6 megawatts of electricity which will be sold to utilities on the open market.
   According to one DEQ official, with the perceived energy crunch the nation is in, a lot of people are talking about building a power plant. A few are actually doing it.
   Locally, one of those is Prineville Energy, LLC. Last week, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality formally issued a request for comments from the public on a proposed Air Contaminant Discharge Permit for the energy company. Located at the old Pine Products sawmill on Lamonta Road, the owners of Prineville Energy plan to replace the old wood fired boilers in the mill's power plant with natural gas fired equipment. Electricity generated will be then sold to a utility.
   Thane Jennings, an environmental engineer with DEQ's regional office in Bend, said while he has been getting a lot of inquiries from people interested in building a power generation plant, it's not a simple thing to do. Normally it takes at least 28 months for the permitting process to be completed, and then there's the expense of equipment.
   At the present time, Jennings explained, there is a shortage of generating equipment. "You put your name on the waiting list and wait," he said. "A lot of people are excited about producing energy, but few are actually planning to do it."
   The plant that Bob Smollack of Prineville Energy is working at the old sawmill is expected to produce six megawatts. That, Smollack explained, would serve about 6,000 homes.
   Restarting up a steam generation plant that had been shut down nearly ten years ago is a complex operation. First nearly everything had to be torn completely down and rebuilt. "We started about the first of April," Smollack said., "pulling everything apart and rebuilding it; the turbine is being completely gone through."
   But even with a lot of the equipment in place, it is an expensive undertaking. The mill has been shut down for a long time and there is a lot of renovation work that has to be done. Changing from a wood-fired method to burning natural gas meant a new pressure boiler. As reports of flooding in the Houston, Texas, area covered the news, Smollack made a lot of phone calls -- the boiler is being worked on at a plant in Houston.
   And then there are the permits that have to be issued. One of the early steps in the process is the Proposed Air Contaminant Discharge Permit.
   Mandated by DEQ, is that affected property owners and people living in the vicinity learn what is being proposed. Comments can be made to the permit coordinator, Bonnie Hough, until July 6.
   If the permit is approved, the applicant, Prineville Energy, will maintain fuel usage levels below certain set levels. The facility will be inspected by the state to make sure those levels are not exceeded. At first glance, the proposed emission limits appear to be sizable. When Jennings was asked about the 99 tons per year of carbon monoxide that the permit would allow, he said he didn't consider that to be as bad as it sounds.
   "Compare that amount with the 30,000 tons per year at the Hermiston plant," he said. "And the plant will produce CO only if oil is burned as the heat source. If natural gas supply is curtailed, would oil be used and that's only happened once or twice in the past four years."
   The last time Jennings said he could remember the supply of natural gas wasn't available was a few years ago when the area suffered minus 10 degree temperatures. The permit, he pointed out, is based on the worst case scenario.
   A copy of the proposed permit is available at the library and comments should be addressed to Hough's office at 2146 NE 4th Ave. Suite 104, Bend, OR 97701.
   Another possible source of electricity is a proposal that would tap the A.R. Bowman Dam. A preliminary permit has been requested by an Idaho developer to build a generation plant at the dam.
   Brent L. Smith, president of Northwest Power Services, Inc., a Rigby, Idaho company, has filed the request with the federal regulatory agency. Public comment on the proposal will be accepted until the end of July.
   Smith's scheme is to install a generation plant at the dam and sell the generated electrical power to a utility company. The general description of the project would include the construction of an intake structure at the dam. A 100-foot long, 120-inch diameter steel penstock would divert the water under pressure through two generation units located in a powerhouse below the dam.
   According to the permit application, three megawatts of power could be generated. That is enough electrical power to serve 3,000 homes. The power would be transmitted by way of an eight-mile long, 15 k-Volt transmission line to link up with Pacific Power transmission lines already in place.
   The process of filing a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is length and time consuming. Once approved, a preliminary permit is good for 36 months. In that time, the applicant would conduct economic analysis of the the proposal, complete preliminary engineering plans and carry out an environmental impact study. Based on the results, the final decision would be made by the applicant on whether to proceed. At that point the proper federal permit would be applied for.
   Interested members of the public can learn more about the permitting process, and study the preliminary permit application on the Internet at www.ferc.fed.us/online/ rims.html/
   Comments should be in writing to
   Federal Energy
   Regulatory Commission
   888 First St. N.E.
   Washington, D.C.