Virginia biomass power plant moves forward

By Lisa Gibson | February 04, 2011

Developers of a 50-megawatt biomass power plant in Virginia’s southern town of South Boston have approval to begin preliminary construction work on the $175 million project.

The plant, developed jointly by Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) and Michigan-based energy services company Novi Energy, will use between 250,000 and 550,000 tons per year of forest slash. The plant will operate in dispatch mode, depending on the economics of PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity to 13 states and the District of Columbia. “If the economics are better, we’ll be producing more,” said Mike Dailey, vice president of business development for NOVEC. The fuel requirement can be found within a 75-mile radius of the plant, he added.

The facility will bring 300 to 400 new jobs to the area during construction, as well as 40 full-time positions once operational in 2013, according to NOVEC. A public hearing held before the Virginia State Corporation Commission recently drew a number of supporters excited about the job possibilities in an area with an unemployment rate of more than 11 percent. “It was a great outpouring of support,” Dailey said. In addition, the plant will not be visible from adjoining roadways, as it will be tucked away in 104 acres of woods, according to the developers.

“This project will create a unique tie among the members of NOVEC, the residents of South Boston and those of Halifax County—a unique model that has potential for the rest of the commonwealth,” Dailey said. “Right now it looks like a win-win-win for everyone.”