Oglethorpe suspends biomass power plant projects

By Anna Austin | February 09, 2011

Oglethorpe Power recently announced that it is putting its plans to construct three 100-megawatt biomass power plants on hold indefinitely due to regulatory uncertainty.

In 2008, Oglethorpe Power announced plans to build up to three biomass plants in Georgia, and was studying the best potential sites.

Aside from the production of renewable energy, perhaps the most significant benefit of these plants would have been the 400 to 500 jobs generated per plant, mostly employment within the depressed forest industry to gather and transport fuel.

Construction was scheduled to begin this year on the first plant in Warren County, but that’s no longer in the power utility’s plans, the company announced, due to a string of government regulatory issues that have surfaced over the past year and a half.  

Even though one of the most onerous regulations impacting biomass plants—the Tailoring Rule—has been deferred for three years and the beneficial 1603 Program was renewed, the company says it’s just not quite enough for it to move forward with its plans.

“We feel there is still considerable uncertainty over whether biomass generation will be treated as a renewable resource and will be considered carbon neutral,” said Greg Jones of Oglethorpe Power. “In light of that, our member systems have determined that we will defer construction of our Warren County, Ga., project as we continue to monitor regulatory and legislative developments related to biomass electricity generation.”

Oglethorpe Power had already obtained an air permit from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and will soon hold a hearing on the environmental impact statement. Any decision on when or if the project moves forward will be made at some point in the future, according to Jones.

Oglethorpe Power had previously placed its proposed project in Appling County, Ga., on indefinite hold for many of the same reasons. “In both instances, we are holding onto the land for potential future use,” he said.