Blast Shuts NH Biomass Energy Plant

Thursday, October 8, 2015 @ 05:10 PM gHale

A wood-fired energy plant in Bethlehem, NH, shut down Tuesday after its generator exploded and caught fire.

The explosion, reported at 11:11 a.m. Tuesday, was “a pure accident,” said Fire Chief Jack Anderson. No one suffered injury in the blast.

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Firefighters from multiple communities responded to the Pinetree Power facility, which is a subsidiary of GDF Suez International North America and which, according to the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, has been generating 17.1 megawatts of energy for more than 30 years.

Company officials were not available for comment but Anderson said most of that power goes into the regional power grid, although some ends up consumed locally.

The fire chief praised the Pinetree Power employees, who shut off all power immediately after the explosion in the four-story generation building. They also went and activated the water supply for firefighting.

“Their crew did a wonderful job,” said Anderson, as did firefighters, the first of whom encountered heavy fire in the area of the generator.

Measuring some 15-feet wide by 10-feet tall and 15-feet long, the generator failed and exploded, breaking into multiple pieces, some weighing as much as 1,000 pounds with some smaller chunks flying up to dozens of feet away, Anderson said.

Pinetree Power has always been a good corporate resident and “a very well-run facility” with an emphasis on safety, Anderson said.

“This was a pure accident,” he said. “Nobody could tell it was coming.”

Pinetree Power is “totally shut down,” Anderson said, and the company is conducting its own investigation.

“This is a major loss” to the Bethlehem area economically, said the chief, because not only did Pinetree Power have a dozen or more employees, it also employed numerous local loggers to provide it with wood.

Pinetree was on a schedule to shut down for two weeks in two weeks, Anderson said.