Closed Paper Mill Experiences Renewal as Biomass Power Facility in the “City that Trees Built”

May 2006 brought the closing of a more than 150-year-old paper mill in Berlin, New Hampshire, a town nicknamed the “City that Trees Built.” For most of the Northern New Hampshire town’s recent history, the mill had been the center of economic activity and – despite the mill’s shrinking size as the dawn of the Internet decreased demand for paper – remained the top employer for the town of 10,000 residents until the day it shut down.

For several years, the lot that had been home to the historic paper mill remained empty as the town debated what to do with the land – and, more important, how to restore the jobs that were lost with the mill.

After four years of debate, in 2010, with the buildings and the former paper mill falling into disrepair, a developer purchased the land and buildings to build a biomass plant. In addition to putting to use a vacant lot that had once been the center of the community, the new biomass plant would employ former paper mill workers, doing jobs that fall within their expertise. Additionally, the new biomass plant would reuse the very same boiler that had been implemented by the paper mill.

The biomass plant project, which has been permitted and is being developed by Cate Street Capital, is currently in the construction phase, and will eventually employ up to 400 laborers to build the plant. Slated to open in early 2013, the new 75 MW facility will provide enough clean power for about 750 homes and will provide permanent, good paying jobs to 40 local residents. It will also allow the local loggers and truckers to remain in the area harvesting and delivering forest products, similar to the work they did for the paper mill.

The project enjoys lots of support from local government and residents in Berlin. In September 2011, upon Cate Street Capital’s closing for project financing, Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier said, “I think this is the beginning of a new economic era for the city of Berlin.”

The Biomass Power Association is the nation’s leading organization working to increase the use of clean, renewable biomass power and create new jobs and opportunities in the biomass industry.