A joint project between Boise Inc. and St. Helens came at the right time

With final tax credits received in October of this year, the numbers behind the Boise Inc.’s joint project with the city of St. Helens to install solar-power aerators do, in fact, add up.

Seven solar-powered aerators were first installed in St. Helen’s wastewater lagoons in Sept. 2010, with two added the following February. The SolarBee brand units operate in the primary lagoon to treat the city’s wastewater, as well as in the secondary lagoon, which takes in Boise Inc. wastewaters. Twenty-five electrical aerators are still in operation.

During the City Council’s Nov. 7 work session, interim co-director of the city Public Works Department Sue Nelson presented a budgetary break-down of the rebates, tax and energy credits that defrayed the project’s total initial cost of $374,992.43. A rebate from Bonneville Power Administration and credits from the Energy Trust of Oregon reduced the cost to Boise and the city by 70 percent.

According to the department’s final truing of project costs, Boise’s 63.4 percent share of the project amounted to $27,038.22. The city’s 36.6 percent contribution came to $15,608.81.

“We were estimating we were going to save about 40 percent in power, and we’re (saving) at 66 percent right now,” said Aaron Kunders, superintendent of the St. Helens wastewater treatment facility.

The project was expected to pay for itself within about two and a half years. According to Kunders, the aerators’ better-than-projected efficiency meant that the project paid for itself in little over a year.

It is a bittersweet accomplishment in light of Boise Inc.’s recent announcement it will be shutting down operations in St. Helens, with the paper mill expected to cease production by the end of this year.

“We are very proud of (the project) and we were happy to participate in this with the city,” Karen Blanchard, manager of communications at Boise, Inc., said. “It was a win-win. We think (we showed) the potential of this kind of project for others in the industry to see how this works, and we’re proud to be a part of that.”

Blanchard added the SolarBee project demonstrated how private and governmental agencies could collaborate to take advantage of state and federal credits to their mutual benefit.

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