Biomass generator faces regulatory reviews

GEORGIA - Oglethorpe Power Corp. will purchase a site in Warren County as part of its ongoing plan to develop a pair of $400 million biomass electric generating plants in Georgia.

Last year, the Tucker, Ga.-based utility acquired purchase options on five potential biomass plant sites, including three parcels in Warren and Washington counties and one each in Appling and Echols counties.

Company spokesman Greg Jones said planners have narrowed their list of preferred sites in the east Georgia region, and "as a result, we are exercising our option to initiate the purchase of our Warren County site."

Mr. Jones said such a purchase does not guarantee a plant will be built there but that it is a major step in that direction.

The site must undergo a substantial review under the National Environmental Policy Act — and might also face scrutiny from regulators at Georgia's Environmental Protection Division, which issues permits for major industrial activities.

"We won't know what our final preferred sites are until that review is completed," Mr. Jones said, adding that Oglethorpe intends to build two plants that would go online in 2014 or 2015, with the possibility of a third facility later.

As part of an effort to use renewable energy and reduce pollution, each 100-megawatt biomass plant would burn wood chips and other timber products to operate steam-powered turbines.

Projections indicate each biomass plant would purchase about $30 million in fuel each year and generate about 500 jobs in local timber economies, in addition to the 40 full-time jobs needed for each plant.

Oglethorpe, an electric cooperative that also owns a 30 percent interest in Plant Vogtle, has filed an application for $800 million to $1 billion in loan financing through the Rural Utilities Service to help finance its biomass projects.


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