Texas companies partner to build wood-fired plant

By Ron Kotrba
Web exclusive posted August 29, 2008 at 3:21 p.m. CST

The Austin, Texas, city council has unanimously approved a renewable power purchase agreement between city-owned electric utility Austin Energy and Nacogdoches Power LLC, in what is expected to be a $2.3 billion contract over 20 years. The plan calls for Austin Energy to purchase all of the electricity produced at Nacogdoches Power's proposed 100-megawatt power generation facility, which will use waste wood to produce electricity. According to Austin Energy, the facility will burn wood waste from logging and mill activities, as well as urban wood from clearing, tree trimming and pallets.

Operating under a strategic energy policy previously enacted by the city of Austin, which states that 30 percent of Austin Energy's generation must come from renewable energy sources by 2020, this particular agreement will boost Austin Energy's renewable percentage to 18 percent in 2012, when the power plant is expected to begin operations.

"The projection is that natural gas prices will continue to escalate over the long-term," said Roger Duncan, Austin Energy general manager. "The higher natural gas prices rise, the more this project will save our customers since the biomass-generated power effectively replaces natural-gas-fueled generation for the utility."

The wood-fired Nacogdoches Power plant will be located in Sacul, Texas, about 230 miles from Austin, Texas. A wood-handling feed system, a wood-fired system generator, a condensing steam-turbine generator with an evaporative cooling tower, and auxiliary support equipment will all be part of the plant's design. An engineering, procurement and construction contract was made in March 2007, the same month Nacogdoches Power secured its necessary permits. According to the company, the facility will employ the latest in boiler and emissions control technology.

The steam generator will be a bubbling fluidized bed boiler, which will be equipped with a baghouse for particulate emissions abatement. A selective non-catalytic reduction system will control nitrogen oxide emissions.

Texas state law requires 500 megawatts of new, non-wind renewable generation by 2015.