Local forest products company creates clean electricity


Above: Sierra Pacific Industries’ Burlington Mill has a cogeneration power plant that uses wood residuals created during the milling process to create steam heat and electricity. 


A Skagit County lumber mill will soon be a clean energy source for thousands of Puget Sound Energy’s(PSE) customers.

PSE announced in March that Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) will provide renewable electricity generated from a cogeneration plant at its Burlington Mill, north of the city of Mt. Vernon beginning in 2021. In total, PSE has agreed to purchase 17 megawatts of renewable energy from SPI – enough electricity to power 17,000 homes.

In a news release, PSE representatives said that the partnership with SPI continues the energy company’s “commitment to the environment and deep decarbonization by investing in biomass energy.”

“This is another step in our journey to acquire clean sources of energy for our customers,” said David Mills, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at PSE “We will continue to work with renewable energy projects to fill our capacity needs.

SPI Burlington Mill Division Manager Brad Gould noted that the partnership will provide both economic and environmental benefits. Virtually every part of the tree is used and there’s zero waste at the Burlington Mill, due to the cogeneration facility.

“Our crew is proud to be using locally grown, harvested and manufactured wood products to power homes in our own neighborhoods,” said Gould. “This is a partnership that provides both environmental and economic solutions for our community.”

Illustrated in a short film created by PSE, the cogeneration facility works by turning every bit of excess wood created from the milling process into steam that is used to make electricity and heat the kilns used to dry lumber. The steam pressure turns turbines which in turn generate power.

The cogeneration facility also has an air pollution controlling device that filters out fine particles and other emissions from the burning wood residuals to ensure what is released into the atmosphere comes out clean.

“Not only are we supporting a local renewable energy product that is located right here in our service area,” Mills said. “But, we’re also proud to be supporting local jobs in Skagit County.”

PSE has committed to becoming coal-free by 2025 and aims for its electric system to be carbon neutral by 2030. PSE officials said that the company will continue to acquire new sources of clean and renewable energy to meet its environmental goals.

The PSE and SPI partnership will last 17 years and begins in 2021.