JAY – Two of three turbines at a power plant that has been idle since late November 2004 were expected to be tested Thursday, town Environmental Code Officer Shiloh Ring said.

Plant officials called Ring Thursday morning, she said, to inform her that they planned for one of the turbines to be tested for two hours and they were going to try a second turbine, if the first was successful.

The three 50 megawatt combustion turbine generators produce the steam and electric energy at the natural gas-fired cogeneration center owned by Verso Paper at the Riley Road paper mill site.

The Planning Board approved the re-commissioning and a plant capability audit last week. The audit is anticipated to be completed prior to Sept. 15, and will entail the start up of all three units and their continued operation for four to 12 hours at full production. The audit will also be used to develop future operating scenarios.

The power plant, the first in the state to produce both steam and electric energy fueled by natural gas, was built in the late 1990s for about $100 million and went on-line in early 2000. It was initially built to provide steam to International Paper’s Androscoggin Mill to supplement heavy No. 6 fuel oil the mill used in the paper-making process. It also was to sell electricity commercially.

The plant shut down after its former owners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 2004.

Ownership of the plant, formerly known as Androscoggin Energy Center, was transferred to IP in March this year in a bankruptcy court agreement to settle IP’s breach of service contract lawsuit against the owners.

IP transferred ownership to the new owner of the Androscoggin Mill, Verso Paper, when the mill was sold this year.

The former owners are also contesting the town’s valuation of plant property in bankruptcy court. If they win the case, it could mean Jay would have to pay back more than $3.7 million in taxes.

There are no definitive plans to operate the power plant yet, Verso Paper spokesman Bill Cohen said Thursday.

The company has hired a consultant to help mill employees understand how the equipment works and to test it, he said.

“We also have folks looking at possibilities for the future,” he said. “We are looking at what the alternatives are right now.”

The first time the power plant’s equipment was tested in the late 1990s there were loud noises that neighbors across the river complained about.

The former owners installed mufflers to decrease the noise.

Cohen said Verso Paper is sensitive to all the environmental issues including noise and will be considerate of that in the testing.

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