The Buzz in Gainesville

By Anna Simet | October 18, 2013

About seven months ago, Biomass Magazine Executive Editor Tim Portz took a trip down to Gainesville, Fla., to tour the site of the nearly complete Gainesville Renewable Energy Center for our April construction outlook issue.

The resulting account and photos told a pretty amazing story, illustrating the manpower, materials, meticulous planning and maneuvering that goes into to building a facility of such a caliber. It was commissioned this summer and is nearing full operations, with enough capacity to power 70,000 homes.

Lately, there’s been a lot of buzz about that Gainesville facility.

First, we heard a certain southern power utility had purchased GREC from owner American Renewables. Looking to update our plant database, we tried to confirm this, but had no luck.

We did know that the plant’s contract with the city gives the city first option to buy it, and Gainesville has been mulling the possibility, rejecting GREC's request to waive for 120 days its contractual rights of first offer and its ability to review and potentially object to a sale of the plant to another company (which likely explains what I mentioned above about a potential buyer).

The city has had a deadline of Oct. 22 to make a decision. It asked for an extension, but was not granted one. At a city commission meeting held Oct. 17, it was voted that Gainesville would make a non-binding, $400 million offer on the plant, which those in favor of said they believe would offer savings opposed to the current power purchase agreement the city is currently locked in.

An official offer has yet to be made.

And there’s another side issue with the Gainesville plant—many residents have complained of the noise coming from the facility. As a result, there are a lot of negative feelings toward the plant. However, GREC believes there are solutions to the noise problems and is actively working on it, having already reduced one source of noise at the facility, according to a letter GREC CFO Albert Morales wrote for a local newspaper.

Noise measurements/analysis taken by both by a hired firm and local police have indicated that the decibels do not exceed Gainesville’s noise ordinance, but GREC has brought in engineers to study the problem anyway, and provide them with options to solve the problem.

Hopefully this story continues to play out in a positive way, and the true benefits of this facility are realized by the city and its residents.