NC utility accepting proposals for electricity from woody biomass

By Lisa Gibson
Posted December 1, 2009, at 2:32 p.m. CST

Progress Energy Carolinas has issued a request for proposals for electricity generated from woody biomass in North Carolina, open until Dec. 15.

The utility is seeking between 40 and 75 megawatts (MW) starting in 2013, as it looks to contribute to North Carolina's renewable portfolio standard of 12.5 percent by 2020, according to Scott Sutton, Progress Energy communication specialist. The company is looking for proposals from engineers and developers, who will build, own and operate their own facilities, but with purchase agreements in place with Progress for 100 percent of the power generated, renewable energy certificates and the biomass facility's capacity, Sutton said. Utilities need to guarantee to their overseers that they have enough capacity to provide power to their customers whenever it's needed and purchasing the biomass facility's capacity would allow Progress to count it toward its own capacity, he explained. "It's essentially a fee to be able to count on them whenever we need them," he added. The proposed facilities must be in North Carolina and run on woody biomass only.

Progress does not specify that all the energy needs to come from one plant, Sutton said, leaving the possibility of more than one contract with more than one developer. Bids will go through a competitive bidding process and contracts will include timelines for construction and operation. Progress will screen and evaluate proposals by Jan. 10 and a short-list determination, if necessary, is scheduled for Jan. 11, according to the company. Contract negotiations should be completed by Feb 14. "We'll compare them not only to each other, but to the self-building option," he said of the proposals. The company has not ruled out building its own biomass plant, if the economics are better than simply purchasing power. "We have to make sure we're being prudent with our customers' money," he said.

The company does not own any biomass power plants, but has about 300 MW under contract, although not all are operating currently, Sutton said. Most of Progress's biomass energy is generated in Florida-280 MW from wood waste and sweet sorghum-among other biomass feedstocks. The company also purchases power from a 25 MW plant in North Carolina that runs on wood waste, along with a 7 MW plant that uses municipal solid waste. Sutton said Progress has not ruled out converting its existing coal-fired plants to biomass feedstock in its effort to increase its renewable energy resources.

More information about the request for proposals, along with guidelines, can be found at