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Turbine time

Resolute Forest Product’s new turbine is expected to bring some financial stability to the company.
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From left to right – Gilbert Smith, Bill Mauro, Michael Gravelle, Keith Hobbs and Richard Evans flip the switch to Resolute Forest Product’s new turbine on May 14, 2013. (Jeff Labine, tbnewswatch.com)

Resolute Forest Product’s new turbine is expected to bring some financial stability to the company.

Politicians and dignitaries toured Resolute’s Thunder Bay pulp and paper mill Tuesday morning in order to take a peek at the new turbine, which has been running for a few months now. The tour coincided with the company’s annual general meeting that’s being held Thursday.

The turbine came with a $65 million price tag, which the province pitched in with more than $9.6 million next to the federal government’s $27.2 million.

The steam-powered turbine will allow Resolute to provide itself with some of its own power -- up to 65 megawatts.

Richard Garneau, president and chief executive officer of Resolute, said the turbine will allow the company to produce power, use biomass and make the company more competitive.

“When you look at the project, we had about 20 more jobs,” he said. “I think it is going to secure the jobs in harvesting. I think overall, there’s going to be jobs here and in the bush.

“We have turbines like this in other mills. It helps optimize a site like the one here in Thunder Bay but we want to have more obviously. Having green energy is a plus. Having this turbine is going to make this site more competitive longer term.”

Besides pulp, hardwood and softwood, Garneau said Resolute is now in the business of power.

Garneau said there was some delays during construction before they could have the turbine up and running.

But since its installation, the turbine has been running smoothly, he said.

Mayor Keith Hobbs called Resolute’s new turbine a great step forward for the company.

“It shows they’re investing in our community,” he said. “The wood, pulp and paper and lumber industries are having resurgence. There’s so many more things you can do with wood. It’s also a renewable resource whereas mining isn’t.”

Although Resolute is providing some power to Ontario’s grid, Hobbs said it wouldn’t make a dent in the region’s energy needs.

MPP Bill Mauro (Lib., Thunder Bay – Atikokan) said the Thunder Bay mill will be one of the most competitive mills that Resolute has. He said it was important that Resolute invested its own money into the project because it showed that company wants to invest into the facility.

“There’s a lot of reasons why this is a smart and good project for us to have supported as a government,” Mauro said.

“I think the company spending its money on the plant is the best signal that an employee could hope to see. We all know how difficult of an experience it was for the forest industry right across North America. There was just no capital being invested for a long time. But (Resolute) spent close to $55 million on this one project. That’s a major signal to the employees.”