How Robbins Lumber generates electricity from steam using NLine Energy’s Microsteam® turbine

Generating In-House Electricity

When the NLine Energy team visited the mill, they took the time to understand how the mill operates and what facilities were available. The team then explained to Win that the mill could start running its current boiler at high pressure instead of low pressure. This simple modification allowed Robbins Lumber to run the same steam used to dry lumber and heat buildings through a turbine first and generate usable power.

The NLine team presented Win with the idea of using its Microsteam® turbine to handle the power generation. The proprietary turbine is a compact energy-recovery system that generates electricity from the pressure and flow energy previously wasted through a steam system’s pressure-reducing valve.

Understanding that Robbins Lumber’s East Baldwin location is a relatively small mill and didn’t have the staff to handle the project alone, the NLine team took care of everything involved with the installation. The team found grants to help the mill afford the project and worked with the state and power utility to obtain the necessary allowances to install the turbine.

“The installation was a turnkey project,” said Win. “The NLine team’s communication with all project vendors and contractors led to the project’s success during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Microsteam turbine fits Robbins
Lumber’s East Baldwin mill perfectly.

In Search of the Right Turbine

Robbins Lumber is a family-owned mill that has processed Eastern white pine trees into boards across five generations. Recently, management of the Maine-based milling operation considered generating electricity using the steam that their boilers produce.

“We have a 250-horsepower boiler,” said Win Smith, General Manager of Robbins Lumber, East Baldwin. “It has the capability of producing three hundred pounds of pressure, but we ran it at fifteen pounds of pressure to produce steam. We then use that low-pressure steam to dry our lumber and assist in heating of our sawmill and planer mill during the winter. This low-pressure system played an important role at the mill.”

Win was happy with what he could do with the mill’s steam, but he knew more could be done. He searched for a turbine that could turn the boiler’s steam into electricity to offset a portion of the power the mill purchased from the electrical grid. Every turbine Win found might work for very large mills, but not his smaller facility—that is, every turbine except NLine’s.

I enjoy working with the NLine team because of their professionalism and levelheadedness. They really go above and beyond. Also, their turbine is perfect for our application and many other lumber mills.

Win Smith
General Manager Robbins Lumber, East Baldwin

Project Statistics
Species Eastern white pine
Sawmill Output 20 MMBF/year
Primary Boiler Fuel Biomass
Pressure Drop 270 psig to 30 psig
Steam Flow 7.5 MLbs/hour
20-Year GHG Savings 20,700 tons
Annual Generation 1,740,500 kWh
Generation Capacity 275 kWe
Year Installed 2022
Simple Payback < 2 years


Strong Solution
for Sawmills

The Microsteam turbine is a robust addition that recovers energy that would otherwise be wasted through the release of steam pressure. It’s compact, efficient, and capable of being installed in mills where larger turbines won’t fit.

Turnkey Process

The Microsteam turbine was delivered turnkey. NLine handled everything relating to the installation. This included managing vendors and contractors seeking a variance from the state to operate the turbine twenty-four hours a day without constant supervision


Robbins Lumber will experience a remarkable return on its investment: The turbine is projected to pay for itself in less than two years.

Do you have steam? Would you like to make clean, renewable power? Give us a call! Our experts can instantly assess your opportunity.

Nate Turner, Chief Commercial Officer

Nate Turner, Chief Commercial Officer

Do you have steam? Would you like to make clean, renewable power? Give us a call! Our experts can instantly assess your opportunity.