Grand opening held for 100-MW biomass facility in Florida

By Biomass Power Association | October 11, 2011

The Biomass Power Association participated in the grand opening of the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center biomass facility in Gainesville, Fla., on Oct. 11. Upon completion, this facility will be one of the two largest biomass facilities in the country, with 100 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity—enough to power approximately 70,000 homes.

This facility, already employing hundreds of local construction workers, will eventually add several dozen permanent, well-paying jobs to the Gainesville area and will indirectly support hundreds of truckers and loggers. 

“It is truly thrilling to witness the grand opening of what will become one of the largest biomass facilities in the country,” said Bob Cleaves, president and CEO of the BPA. “This facility will use tons of local wood waste that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill to produce clean, reliable energy. I commend American Renewables on bringing biomass to Gainesville.”

 “In this tough economic environment, GREC is creating new jobs and keeping current workers employed,” said Jim Gordon, president of GREC. GREC began construction in March, and is already employing more than 235 workers at the site today. This number will rise to nearly 900 as construction activities accelerate. Once GREC is operational, it will spend approximately $30 million per year buying wood from the surrounding region. This money will support the forestry industry, including landowners, loggers, truckers and others. I’m proud to say that GREC is doing its part to stimulate economic activity in the region and put folks to work.”

In addition to creating local jobs, biomass energy is a cheap, reliable source of energy. Its prices remain fairly consistent and are not vulnerable to the highs and lows that most fossil fuel prices experience. While the creation of these facilities comes with a temporary rate increase in the first few years, it will ultimately lower prices significantly for energy consumers. Gainesville Renewable Utilities estimates that the biomass plant will help it save considerable sums in the long run—hundreds of millions of dollars less than if energy were purchased off the open market. These savings will, in turn, be passed along to consumers.

 “This project is a critical component in Gainesville’s goals of increasing its energy diversity and reliability while reducing its carbon emissions,” said Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe. “When the facility is operational in late 2013, it will supply renewable power to 70,000 homes in the Gainesville region. I am proud that Gainesville remains a leader in implementing environmentally responsible energy solutions for its citizens.”

Gainesville is not the only place where a significant biomass facility is under construction. Another 100-MW facility is being built in Nacogdoches, Texas, and a 75-MW facility has broken ground in Berlin, N.H. These three facilities will each play a major role in their respective communities. During the construction phase, which typically lasts two or three years, each facility will employ up to 1,000 local workers. Upon opening, each facility will provide dozens, if not hundreds, of permanent, well-paying positions in addition to strong support for the local trucking and logging industries. 

Over the coming months and years, the BPA will track the progress of each facility’s construction.  Please continue to check for more information on these and other biomass projects.