Georgia Power plant conversion moves forward

By Anna Austin
Web exclusive posted March 19, 2009, at 5:36 p.m. CST

The Georgia Public Service Commission has approved Southern Co.'s largest utilities provider Georgia Power to move forward with the conversion of its 164-megawatt coal-fired power Plant Mitchell Unit 3, located near Albany, Ga., to a 96-megawatt, 100-percent wood-fired biomass plant.

Plans for the project were detailed in the March 2009 issue of Biomass Magazine. (Read "Making the Switch.")

"Georgia Power has indicated in its filing that conversion of the Plant Mitchell Unit 3 is consistent with the company's renewable expansion plans, adds to fuel diversity and maximizes the life and value of the unit," the GPSC said in a statement. "As part of the 2007 Integrated Resources Plan, the commission found Georgia Power's plan to develop cost-effective renewable resources to be effective."

Under the Integrated Resource Plan statute, new power generation cannot be added to the system nor can significant changes be made to the capacity of an existing facility without a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity issued by the GPSC.

The next step in the conversion process is for Georgia Power to obtain an air permit from the state Environmental Protection Division, which could take between 15 and 18 months, or between the spring and summer of 2010. The company plans to begin the transition in 2011 and bring the plant on line prior to the summer of 2012.

Upon project completion, Georgia Power expects to create 50 to 75 new jobs related to waste wood recovery.

Georgia Power Project Manager Kenny Smith said if the project succeeds, the company will look into converting more of its plants to biomass. "It's the first one of its kind for our company-so we want to get some experience under our belt and see how it goes before we initiate others like it."