Oglethorpe Power to develop three Georgia plants

By Anna Austin
Web exclusive posted Sept. 22, 2008 at 4:58 p.m. CST

With the intent to utilize one of Georgia's most abundant renewable resources, Oglethorpe Power Corp., the nation's largest power supply cooperative, announced a massive woody biomass power plant project that will serve nearly half of the state's population with electricity.

Initial plans include the construction of up to three, 100 megawatt carbon-neutral facilities which will be designed to use woody biomass. Oglethorpe Power, which is headquartered in Tucker, Ga., has secured five potential site options in Appling, Echols, Warren and Washington Counties in Georgia. The company is still determining where to locate the plants, two of which are scheduled to be built and operational in 2014.

Depending on which site is selected, water may be obtained from on-site wells, nearby surface waters, municipal sources or grey water from nearby industries. An estimated 150 acres will be needed per plant.

According to the company, capital investment in the facilities ranges from $400 million to $500 million per facility, each of which are expected to provide approximately 40 permanent jobs, and possibly hundreds of new positions within Georgia's forestry industry.

The steam-electric generation power stations will use fluidized bed boiler and steam turbine technology, powered by a woody biomass mixture. The mixture will be composed of processed roundwood, such as chipped pulpwood, manufacturing residue such as sawmill waste, and harvest residue leftover from forest clearing. Plant designs will allow the use of other types of biomass such as peanut shells and pecan hulls. The exact control technologies will be determined throughout the permitting process.

Oglethorpe Power President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Smith said the impetus behind designing the plants to utilize the woody biomass mixture feedstock is that Georgia is a poor location for wind energy, and has only modest potential for solar. "Thus, making the case of biomass power generation as our best renewable alternative," he said.

In June, Biomass Magazine reported that Georgia legislation passed a bill that would entitle business owners and residential consumers to an income tax credit if certain clean energy property criteria were met. The bill went into effect on July 1 and includes utilizing biomass equipment to convert wood residuals into electricity through gasification and pyrolysis. Click here to read "Georgia passes clean energy tax credit legislation."