Verso staff to run power plant

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JAY – The Planning Board found that Verso Paper has the technical capacity to run its cogeneration natural gas-fired power plant on its own with newly hired staff.

The company had hired a consulting firm to help mill employees understand how the equipment works and recommissioned it for testing last fall.

The combined cycle cogeneration plant built to supply steam and electricity to Verso’s Androscoggin paper mill and surplus electricity to the power grid had been idle since November 2004.

Verso’s staff will continue to work with contracted consultants for a month before operating the plant by themselves, Code Enforcement Officer Shiloh Ring said.

The board’s finding of technical capacity with regard to the personnel change does not extend to environmental compliance with the town-issued air emission permit, she said. For now, the company will continue to work with an outside firm to handle environmental compliance, Ring said.

The operation plan for the turbines is being worked on at the mill, and discussion with parties involved is ongoing, Verso Paper spokesman Bill Cohen said.

In the meantime, Jay selectmen are considering reactivating the municipal Power District Committee that was established years ago.

Verso’s cogeneration center has the capacity to generate a lot of excess energy, Town Manager Ruth Marden said.

Under Maine Public Utilities Commission rules there has to be a middle man to sell the electricity.

There are some possibilities that the Jay Power District could be set up to sell excess electricity that would be made from either hydro power or the cogeneration center at a lower cost to townspeople, Marden said. If there was more than enough for residents, it could also be sold to others in the area, she said.

It’s all just very preliminary discussion so far, she said.

“I’m kind of excited about the possibility of doing something meaningful for taxpayers,” Marden said. “I get right into that.”

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