Rollcast develops biomass power in Georgia, SC

By Lisa Gibson
Posted April 22, 2010, at 2:02 p.m. CST

The first of three biomass power plants by North Carolina-based Rollcast Energy will come on line in 2012 with the capacity to power 40,000 homes in Barnesville, Ga.

The 53.5-megawatt (MW) Piedmont Green Power project will combust about 500,000 tons of wood waste per year including logging residue and urban wood waste. Rollcast recently selected Texas-based Zachry Industrial Inc. to engineer, procure and construct the facility. Zachry has already engineered more than 640 MW of biomass energy and has more than 30 years of experience in the biomass industry, according to Rollcast.

Construction on the project is expected to generate more than 300 jobs in addition to the 27 full-time jobs during operation and another 100 positions will be created in fuel processing and delivery, according to Rollcast. All the permits are in place and construction will most likely start in the fourth quarter of this year.

The company is also developing a woody biomass project near Franklin, Ga., and another near Newberry, S.C., both similar in size to Piedmont Green Power. All will use a mix of forest residue and urban wood waste to some degree, but locations dictate the blend, according to Rollcast President and CEO Penn Cox. The South Carolina plant will use more forestry residue than urban waste, as the site is surrounded by forestlands, while the Georgia plants will use more urban wood waste. "The ones in Georgia are within striking distance to the city of Atlanta," he said. All projects will cost about $200 million all-in, which includes development, owner's costs, interest during construction and other expenses, according to Cox. The Franklin and Newberry plants should also be under construction within this year, he said, although one could be pushed back to next year.

Some developers have expressed frustration in getting projects off the ground in southeastern states that do not have renewable portfolio standards. Neither Georgia nor South Carolina has one, but Cox says there's a very good reason to develop there anyway. "It's where the wood is," he said. "Unfortunately, while the states don't have renewable portfolio standards in the southeast, we're blessed with an abundance of wood. Biomass can still make sense in the southeast."