After approximately six months of construction, Harmac pulp mill's new $45-million electrical generation plant is completed and is in its final testing stages.
The generation plant is expected to be connected to B.C. Hydro's provincial power grid within the next two weeks.
Nanaimo Forest Products, which owns the mill, and B.C. Hydro signed a 15-year agreement last year that will see Harmac sell approximately 15 megawatts from the 25-megawatt plant to the Crown corporation, while using the rest to help meet the mill's power demands.
The construction of the plant is the final phase of the mill's ambitious program, developed almost five years ago, to upgrade its systems and make its operations as green as possible.
The completion of the electrical generation plant comes at the same time that NFP, a four-way partnership that includes Harmac workers (who each invested $25,000) and three private partners, is celebrating its fifth anniversary.
"It's been an exciting five years for us and to complete our new electrical generation plant on our fifth anniversary of taking over the mill is a real feather in our cap," said Paul Sadler, Harmac's CEO.
"We expect that we'll have the test runs of the plant's systems complete by the end of this week or next week. The construction project went well thanks to the efforts of our engineering and construction teams."
The mill currently produces 30 megawatts of power from its existing turbine system for its own uses.
The plant, which provided 95 full-time jobs during its construction, is expected to produce enough excess green electricity to light up 17,000 homes when it comes on line.
Building an electrical generation plant that would use wood waste as fuel and selling the energy to B.C. Hydro was part of the long-range expansion plans by NFP when the company bought Harmac in 2008.
In the spring of that year, Harmac was shut down when previous owner Pope & Talbot went bankrupt, leaving 530 workers without a job.
Unwilling to walk away from a mill that had been profitable in the past, the employees banded together to take over the mill themselves and began searching for private investors.
After a court process that took up much of the summer of 2008, NFP bought the mill for $13.2 million.
Harmac president Levi Sampson said events are being planned for sometime in September to celebrate connecting the new plant with the provincial power grid in August, as well as the fifth anniversary of the first pulp that was processed at Harmac under its new ownership.