Georgia utility to build biomass-fueled power plants

18 09 2008

Dave Williams | Atlanta Business Chronicle

Oglethorpe Power Corp. will invest up to $1 billion building two power plants fueled by biomass, the Tucker-based utility announced Thursday.

The two 100-megawatt plants, powered by woody biomass from South Georgia’s vast forests, are due to begin production in 2014 and 2015. The company also may decide to build a third facility, which also would go online in seven years.

“With our abundant biomass resources, Georgia has the unique opportunity to expand our use of alternative energy, grow our economy and transform the way we provide energy to our citizens,” said Gov. Sonny Perdue, who unveiled Oglethorpe’s plans during his annual Governor’s Environmental Address hosted by Gwinnett Clean & Beautiful in Duluth.

“Oglethorpe Power’s pioneering investment in alternative energy is consistent with our goal to grow, convert and use biomass energy to power our homes and businesses.”

Utilities across the country are stepping up their commitment to less-polluting renewable sources of energy, both in response to public demand and because of market conditions. The costs of coal and natural gas, the most widely used fuels for producing electricity, have been on the rise, while no nuclear plants have built in the U.S. for decades.

The state Public Service Commission will hold public hearings in November on plans by Georgia Power Co. for two new nuclear power generating units at Plant Vogtle near Waynesboro, Ga.

The two Oglethorpe biomass plants will represent a significant increase in Georgia’s biomass-fueled generating capacity. The plants will provide electricity to the utility’s 38 member cooperatives across the state, which serve nearly half of the Georgia population.

“We’re pleased to find an environmentally friendly way to help meet some of our members’ growing demand for electricity,” Oglethorpe president and CEO Tom Smith said.

Fuel for the plants will consist of a woody biomass mixture, including chipped pulpwood and wood waste left over in sawmills and in forests after clearing. The plants also will be designed for co-firing of other types of biomass, such as pecan hulls and peanut shells.

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