U.S. EcoGen plans 60 MW Florida biomass power plant

By Matt Soberg | September 26, 2011

U.S. EcoGen Polk LLC plans to construct and operate a 60-megawatt biomass plant in Fort Meade, Fla., that will use eucalyptus as a feedstock. At a cost of $200 million, developers expect construction to begin on the plant, known as the U.S. EcoGen Generating Facility, in early 2012 with operations starting in 2014.

U.S. EcoGen has secured a 29.5 year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Progress Energy, Florida’s second-largest utility for 100 percent of the electricity it produces, according to U.S. EcoGen President and CEO William F. Quinn. In addition, the project has received the appropriate approvals allowing it to proceed with construction.

The Fort Meade project will include a bubbling fluidized bed boiler and is committed to using a dry cooling system, which will minimize the amount of water processed by the facility. The system will process 50,000 gallons of water per day, which is a significant reduction from the 1.5 million processed by other facilities. 

The company will operate dedicated eucalyptus plantations that will provide 100 percent of the necessary fuel to produce biopower. The fast-growing eucalyptus will be grown, harvested and regrown on a 2- to 4-year rotation. The trees will be transported to the facility and chipped on-site as needed.  The company estimates it will be combusting 400,000 to 500,000 tons of eucalyptus timber per year. 

“This is an exciting time for the local market with our project creating significant jobs,” said Quinn, who is proud of the company’s potential to impact the local economy. Through economic analysis, the company determined that the project will create 350 construction jobs, 35 permanent jobs in the operating plant and 85 jobs associated with growing eucalyptus. 

The Fort Meade project is the first of four biomass facilities earmarked for future project development, according to Quinn. All plants will follow the same model set forth by Fort Meade, including the use of eucalyptus as feedstock to fuel the facilities.