Seneca Sustainable Energy biomass plant receives final operating permit

Seneca Sustainable Energy's biomass plant, located in Oregon, US, has received its final Title V permit from the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA).

The granting of this permit, which took a very long time, confirms that the plant has been operating within its stated pollution limits since it went into operation in 2011. Seneca also has received confirmation that its biomass plant is the cleanest and lowest emissions renewable power plant currently running in the western US.

In a statement Seneca said that since startup began, 'noise from environmental activists in the media caused a lot of confusion about the permitting, operations and compliance of this plant. But, Seneca [...] took steps to ensure that the plant operates at maximum efficiency for clean air results and spent approximately 25% of the plant's total capital cost solely to emission control equipment and technology'.

During LRAPA's permitting review process, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) examined the biomass plant, most notably at an unannounced inspection of the facility in June last year. In its report, the EPA noted many of the plant's unique features that make it the cleanest of its kind. The EPA inspection tour also confirmed that the plant was entirely within compliance guidelines and that Seneca had provided all requested records and documentation in a timely manner.

As Todd Payne, Seneca VP and GM, notes, pursuing stringent pollution targets when it was bringing this plant on-line saw his company encounter a few unforeseen hurdles: 'It took some fine-tuning and much clarifying communication with regulators. But in working through this with LRAPA and the US EPA, we came full-circle and it was finally shown that the plant had indeed been in compliance all along. So it's very rewarding to get this permit.'

In addition to producing electricity, Seneca uses steam heat from this cogeneration facility for drying its finished lumber. All of the plant's renewable electricity is sold locally to the Eugene Water and Electric Board. As an added bonus, the facility assists EWEB and the State of Oregon in meeting the Renewable Portfolio Standard of 25% renewable energy by the year 2025.

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