Williams Lake, British Columbia
The Atlantic Power Williams Lake Project (APWL) is a 66 MW biomass-fired generating facility located in Williams Lake, in south-central British Columbia. The Project commenced commercial operations in April 1993. Atlantic Power indirectly owns 100% of the Project and also operates and manages the Project. Biomass fuel consists of wood waste from sawmill operations and roadside logging debris, which is provided under short-term supply agreements with various suppliers.
APWL had a long-term Electricity Purchase Agreement (EPA) with BC Hydro that expired on April 1, 2018. In December 2017, APWL and BC Hydro agreed to amend and extend the EPA to June 30, 2019, with an option for BC Hydro to extend it to September 30, 2019, while BC Hydro completes its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) update, which will consider the future role of biomass in the utility’s mix of generation resources. Depending on the outcome of the IRP proceeding, expected in 2019, APWL and BC Hydro could discuss a longer-term extension of the EPA at that time. The short-term extension of the EPA is subject to regulatory approval of the BC Utilities Commission, which is pending.
In connection with and contingent upon a potential long-term extension of the EPA, APWL is considering the possibility of including shredded rail ties and other waste wood in the fibre consumed at the Project. Rail ties and clean debris from construction and demolition would supplement diminishing local fibre supply resulting from further mill closures due to a reduction in the allowable annual cut (as set by the BC government). APWL’s principal source of fibre would continue to be the residual fibre from existing wood processing mills in Williams Lake. These potential changes to the fuel mix would require installation of a new fuel shredder at the facility, although APWL will not invest in a new shredder during the short-term extension period of the EPA but only in conjunction with a long-term extension, should one be agreed upon.
As part of the planning process for a potential new shredder, APWL sought changes to its existing air permit. In September 2016, the Ministry of Environment (MOE) approved an amendment to the facility’s existing permit that would allow the use of a broader mix of fuels, including rail ties. The air permit amendment was appealed by certain residents of Williams Lake opposed to the increased allowable use of rail ties. The Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) is conducting a written hearing on the appeals. A decision is expected in the first quarter of 2019.