Plant would turn waste to energy

ALEXANDER COUNTY, FLORIDA - A Florida company is considering Alexander County for a $100 million to $150 million power plant that would turn wood waste into energy.

The Alexander County Commissioners approved offering Decker Energy a $5,000, one-year option to buy 144 acres next to the county landfill, at the end of Payne's Dairy Road in the southeastern part of the county. The option is renewable for another year for another $5,000; Decker would pay $720,000 if it ultimately decides to buy the property.

The company wants to build Alexander Renewable Energy, a plant that would burn wood remnants from nearby forestry, logging and furniture operations to fire a boiler that would produce steam to power a turbine, Alexander economic development director David Icenhour said.

The plant could produce a maximum of 50 megawatts of electricity. By contrast, Duke Energy's Marshall Steam Station, a coal-fired power plant in Sherrills Ford, has a generating capacity of 2,090 megawatts.

Decker, which also has a 15-year-old wood energy plant in Craven County, is aiming to sell the Alexander power to Duke Energy, which is required by a recently passed state law to obtain an increasing percentage of its electricity from renewable sources. The plant would be clean-burning and is expected to have no environmental impact, Icenhour said. The wood process would also create two ash byproducts, one of which is used as fertilizer and the other of which has a sandy consistency and has the potential to be used in construction projects.

The permitting process for the project would begin next year.

If Duke approves the company's application, construction could begin in mid-2009, and the plant would begin operating in mid-2011, Icenhour said. It would create about 20 to 25 jobs, paying an average of $35,000 a year, he said.

“A $100 to $150 million project is very significant for our economy” Icenhour said. “It's going to provide good-paying jobs, and this would be a great addition to the tax base.”

Catawba County, incidentally, is also planning a wood energy plant at its EcoComplex, next to the county landfill.

However, most of the heat and electricity it produces would not be sold; instead, it would be used on the site, for tasks such as powering kilns that would dry wood, bricks and pottery, and to minimize the project's environmental impact.


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