The former owner of a biomass power plant in Fort St. James is laying the blame for a fire on the company hired to build the facility.

Iberdrola Energy Projects Canada Corporation and its parent company, Spanish multinational electric utility company Iberdrola S.A. are named as defendants in a notice of claim Fort St. James Green Energy Partnership filed December 8 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

It says that on or about Dec. 31, 2019 a surge capacitor in the plant’s main termination box “failed and experienced a ground fault situation, leading to the failure of a second surge capacitor which caused an arc flash. The arc flash ignited oil which was contained within the surge capacitor, resulting in fire within the Minst Termination Box.”

The plaintiff goes on the claim the surge capacitors were substandard and that the defendant failed to test the main termination box to ensure the surge capacitors and other components within the box were free of defects and fit for use in the plant.

The plaintiff is seeking damages related to the cost of repairing the damage, which it says included the outbound electrical cables to the power grid, and the dimunition of the plant’s value that allegedly resulted. 

A response to the claim has not yet been filed and the allegations have not been tested in court.

Work on building the plant began in November 2013 and by 2017 it was up and running. In July 2021, the owners announced they were no longer operating the plant, which had employed 38 people.

In  October 2021, BioNorth Energy, a joint venture between Vancouver’s Arrow Transportation Systems, the Nak’adzli Development Corp., and Dallas-based Nexus Program Management Group announced a plan to restart the facility and according to the Caledonia Courier, recommissioning began in December 2021.

At that point, the 40-megawatt plant still had 26 years lefton an electricity purchase agreement with BC Hydro, and there is a forest licence associated with it. 

The plant itself was to employ 35 people, and another 100 were to be employed working on the fibre side of the business, BioNorth Energy president Tim Bell told Glacier Media at the time.

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