NC utility seeks more for electricity from woody biomass

By Lisa Gibson
Progress Energy Carolinas wants to add between 40 to 75 megawatts (MW) of biomass-based electricity to its capacity, starting in 2013. The utility accepted proposals for electricity generated from woody biomass through Dec. 15 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 was 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. The proposed facilities must be in North Carolina and run on woody biomass only.

Progress did 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 were to go through a competitive bidding process and contracts would include timelines for construction and operation. Progress was expected to screen and evaluate proposals by Jan. 10 and a short-list determination, if necessary, was scheduled for Jan. 11, according to the company. Contract negotiations should be completed by Feb 14. The company has not ruled out building its own biomass plant, if the economics are better than simply purchasing power.

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 considered converting its existing coal-fired plants to biomass feedstock to increase its renewable energy resources.

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