When the power plant in Brooklyn opened in 1995, its main purpose was to power the now defunct Bowater Mersey Paper Mill.
In 2012 the mill shut down and the fate of the plant was up in the air. With the help of the provincial government, a deal was secured between ReNova Scotia Bioenergy Inc. and Emera Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Emera Inc. The plant was sold for $25 million to Emera. The deal was finalized in July 2013.
The Brooklyn Energy Corporation now supplies power to Nova Scotia Power under the umbrella of Emera Energy Inc.
Only a small percentage of the energy that was produced by Brooklyn Energy was being sold to Nova Scotia Power in the days of Bowater. Most was sent to the mill in the form of steam through a duct under the road.
“Its sole reason for being was to provide steam to Bowater Mersey,” says Archie Collins, a vice president in operations with Emera Energy.
These days only a small amount of steam is sent across the road to help heat parts of the Renova Innovation Centre.
Brooklyn Energy was originally required to run every day to send steam required to make paper to the mill. Only excess energy was sold to the grid. Now the plant must wait for the “go ahead” every day from Nova Scotia Power before they start the process of creating energy for the grid.
Collins says many power plants across the province run only as needed similar to the process that happens in Brooklyn.
Although the plant is often left idle, that doesn’t mean that staff are laid off. When demand is heavy, particularly in winter months, the plant must be ready to start producing power for the grid immediately.
Bernie Vallis, Plant Manager for Brooklyn Power says that it’s important to keep staff working even when power isn’t produced because they need to retain their skilled workers and the plant needs to be ready at a moment’s notice.
“When we’re off, we’ll do more maintenance as opposed to when we’re on and we’re keeping the plant running,” says Vallis. “What we do switches around but we keep the same amount of people.”
Workers are still paid when the plant is idle. Twenty nine people are employed at Brooklyn Energy.
How it works
The plant uses biomass power, which creates energy from waste known as “residue” from sawmills and other wood operations. It’s cheap and the main expense comes from hauling it into the site says Collins.
“Most of it is coming from around a 100 km radius,” says Collins.
The residue is kept in piles behind the plant. It is brought into the plant by conveyors where it is then dumped into a boiler through a series of spouts and chutes.
It is poured onto a bubbling bed of hot sand between 1300 and 1500 degrees Fahrenheit that is kept in suspension by air being forced in. The sand has to be kept hot but not too hot or it will turn into glass.
The walls of the boiler are filled with water in a series of tubes. The heat is transferred to the water and turns it into steam. The steam then goes to a turbine.
The steam that can be seen coming from the plant comes from the plant’s cooling tower, which is used to cool the water going into the tubes in the boilers.
The plant produces around 29 gross megawatts a day when operating.
“That’s the total before you peel any off before you use any to support the power in this building,” says Collins.
Approximately 25 megawatts go to the grid per day. For an example, Vallis says that five megawatts would probably power Brooklyn and Liverpool.
The original contract that was put in place while the power plant was still under the name Poulsky back in 1995 has the plant selling excess power to Nova Scotia Power for a 33 year period. Although that energy is no longer “excess” the purchasing power portion of the agreement still stands until 2028.