Will Soybean and Canola Oils Power 200,000 Kitsap Homes?

One of the country’s largest independent energy companies is partnering with a property owner west of Kitsap Lake to propose a biodiesel power plant at a former rock quarry.  

Biodiesel fuel consists of a mix mainly of soybean and canola oils, a byproduct of animal feed. The 14-acre total site will include storage for 1.87 million gallons. 

Consultants for Tenaska, based in Omaha, Nebraska, have begun the permitting process to develop the biodiesel-fueled turbine and generator at Ueland Tree Farm. The 215-megawatt power plant would be capable of powering 200,000 homes once activated. Its developers are targeting 2025.

A Green Milestone for Kitsap 

The plant would only be used at peak times, likely during hot summer or cold winter days, to make the local power grid more reliable, said Patrick Leslie, a former Puget Sound Energy emerging technologies manager who is managing the project for Tenaska.

“This is the way to keep the lights on at low cost, and to be as green as possible,” Leslie said of the plant, which has been dubbed the Seabrooke Renewable Energy Facility.

The peninsula’s power grid either needs more electricity sources or conservation from its customers if it is to avoid the risks of blackouts, PSE found in one study, performed in 2018. The study also found that eight of the company’s Kitsap transmission lines “exceeded their emergency limits” for reliability. 

“The Kitsap Peninsula needs are so great the peninsula load would need to be reduced by more than 30 percent in the near term to reduce all … thermal overload and voltage collapse conditions,” the study states.  

The proposal, if built, would create the first large-scale power generating station in Kitsap County — if you don’t count Naval Base Kitsap’s heat-generating steam plant, smaller-scale emergency generators, and the Navy’s fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines that traverse local waters. It would also be the first such biodiesel powerplant in Washington, according to the state’s Department of Commerce.   

Construction of the plant will require up to 150 jobs to complete. The plant will also employ about five permanent operators, Leslie said.

A map of the turbine and generator planned for the Seabrooke Energy Facility at Ueland Tree Farm.

Why here, why now?

Puget Sound Energy’s power grid in Kitsap County faces a precarious future, and the utility has requested proposals for ways to increase electricity reliability on the peninsula. But the utility said it cannot yet discuss specific proposals. Though all of Kitsap County’s power is served by PSE, no contracts have been signed and the power plant, if built as planned, is open to contract with the utility it chooses.  

How ‘green’ is it? Assessing impacts to the environment

The facility will purchase its biodiesel from the Chevron-owned Renewable Energy Group’s Grays Harbor plant.  Given its limited operating schedule, its developers say it will use a minimum of 400,000 gallons a year, though it could run, at maximum, up to six million gallons in the event of an emergency.

Though a lengthy permitting process remains, Bremerton’s mayor and the county commissioner representing the area are supportive of the project. The plant, while located in unincorporated Kitsap County, is near the city’s SoundView Estates housing development; its truck traffic will also use Werner Road.  

Documents filed with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency describe the turbine to be used with biodiesel as similar to a model made by General Electric. It will be connected to a 60-foot smoke stack, and its emissions will include carbon dioxide and fine particulate matter, though how much it emits would be capped by the agency. 

The plant will require renewable diesel to be activated for the first time but will switch to biodiesel within a few days, Leslie said.

Source: Portions of this post were reported in The Kitsap Sun.

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