June 19, 2008

‘Green’ Power Plant Coming to Lamar

By Linda S. Morris, The Macon Telegraph, Ga.

Jun. 19--A proposed power plant in Barnesville is planning to use wood that would normally rot in the forest or in landfills to create enough electricity to power about 40,000 homes.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Rollcast Energy Inc. plans to invest $160 million and create 22 jobs with an annual payroll of $1.2 million-$1.5 million when it builds a biomass plant to produce electricity.

The plant will cover 2 to 3 acres on the Martin Luther King Jr. Bypass between Gordon Road and U.S. 41 in Barnesville.

It will provide a much needed boon to the area, said Missy Kendrick, executive director of the Barnesville-Lamar County Industrial Development Authority.

"We are looking at high paying jobs at a time when our community, and every community, is in desperate need of some quality jobs," Kendrick said.

The plant, which will be named Piedmont Green Power LLC, will burn wood chips from wood that comes from logging or land-clearing operations to heat a boiler that will create steam, said John Campbell, managing director of Rollcast. That steam will produce nearly 50 megawatts of electricity, or enough for about 40,000 homes, which will be sold to a utility company that has not yet been identified.

Piedmont will use about 700,000 gallons of gray water from Barnesville's sewage treatment plant for its cooling process, Campbell said. Gray water is nonindustrial wastewater that comes from dishwater, laundry and bathing. Piedmont also plans to buy 20,000-50,000 gallons of potable water per day from the city.

"This is a green plant," he said. "It will be viewed by the federal government and state government as a renewable power plant."

The company plans to purchase up to 50 acres, and much of the area will be used to buffer the building from adjacent property and for a wood storage yard, he said.

Construction is expected to begin next year, workers would be hired in 2010 and the plant should be up and running in 2011, he said. At the peak of construction, about 200 workers will be involved in the project.

No foul odor will come from the plant, Campbell said.

"People who have visited plants like this say they only smell the freshly cut wood," he said.

The plant is not expected to produce a significant amount of pollution either, he said. Macon is in a non-attainment zone for failing to meet federal air standards for fine particle pollution, but Campbell said the plant would not add to that.

"This plant, relative to a modern coal plant, produces just a tiny fraction of the pollution that kind of plant would produce, which is why we expect to receive a minor air permit from (the Environmental Protection Division)," he said. "It's very benign relative to fossil generation."

Kendrick said the industrial authority initially had concerns about pollution from the plant and didn't want to bring something harmful into the community. Members of the authority toured a similar plant in Michigan to check out the operation.

"For lack of a better way of putting it, we touched it, smelled it, tasted it, and the representations the company made seemed to be true," Kendrick said. "We just made sure that if it was located next door to us would we have a problem with it, and the answer to that is no."

The company considered locations in Butts and Upson counties before selecting the Barnesville site.

The reasons Rollcast chose this location, Campbell said, include:

--It's generally in a forest-producing region and in an area of development between Macon and Atlanta so plenty of land-clearing debris is available.

--The Barnesville community was "very easy to work with."

--The power plant will be located next to a sewage treatment plant that is now discharging gray water to a stream.

The company has projects in various stages of development in states between Virginia and Florida, Campbell said. The first one to be built, which was announced in February, likely will be in Heard County.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.



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