Southern Co. brings nation's largest biomass power plant on line

By Southern Co. | July 18, 2012

Southern Co.announced July 18 that the nation's largest biomass plant is putting electricity on the grid in Texas. Southern Co.President, Chairman and CEO Thomas A. Fanning joined state and local dignitaries today at the company's Nacogdoches Generating Facility to mark commercial operation for the 100-MW unit.

Austin Energy is receiving energy from the plant through a 20-year power purchase agreement.

"Today we recognize Southern Company's on-time, on-budget completion of the nation's largest biomass-fueled power plant," said Fanning. "This is an important milestone for the community, the city of Austin and Southern Company, as the plant provides jobs and economic impact for Nacogdoches County and further diversifies the fuel portfolios of Austin Energy and Southern strengthen our nation's energy independence."

The Texas biomass plant joins Southern Company's growing portfolio of clean alternative energy. The company, in partnership with Ted Turner, owns the nation's second largest solar photovoltaic plant and recently announced the partnership's second solar acquisition. Meanwhile, subsidiary Georgia Power is undertaking a collaborative effort to develop and install its first retail utility-scale solar power development, and Alabama Power, another Southern Co.subsidiary, has acquired capacity from a wind farm being developed in Oklahoma.

For the local community, the Nacogdoches Generating Facility represents a capital investment of about a $500 million. The facility will deliver $58 million in taxes to the county over a 20 year period and direct and indirect job impact of approximately $5.1 million per year. The plant created more than 1,000 craft jobs at the height of construction and is providing 40 permanent positions.  Additionally, some 100 service contracts have been created for operating and maintaining the plant and another 25 for fuel supplies.

The plant, which occupies a 165-acre tract in northeast Texas near Sacul, will be fueled by non-merchantable wood waste. This is a combination of wood-based biomass fuels consisting primarily of saw mill or other wood mill production waste, forest waste, pre-commercial thinnings of cultivated trees, and diseased and other non-commercial tree species. There is also the potential for the use of urban wood waste, tree limbs and branches produced by storms and other non-commercial logging-derived biomass.

The Nacogdoches Generating Facility is owned and operated by Southern Co.subsidiary Southern Power, which acquired the project from American Renewables, LLC, in October 2009. Construction began in November 2009 and the plant met its planned commercial operation schedule of mid-2012.

During the ceremony, Southern Power President Oscar Harper announced that the Co.has endowed a scholarship for the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. The scholarship will go to a deserving student to help further his or her education in one of the school's five undergraduate majors in forestry.

The Nacogdoches Generating Facility uses the newest technology available, including a bubbling fluidized-bed boiler that will give Southern Power the flexibility to use a wide range of biomass fuels and keep emissions low. The plant is part of Southern Company's overall strategy to build and maintain a diverse energy portfolio that includes renewables, natural gas, 21st century coal, new nuclear and energy efficiency.  

With 4.4 million customers and more than 43,000 MW of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern the premier energy company serving the Southeast. A leading U.S. producer of electricity, Southern Co.owns electric utilities in four states and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications. Southern Co.brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and retail electric prices that are below the national average. Southern Co.also is continually ranked among the top utilities in Fortune's annual World's Most Admired Electric and Gas Utility rankings.