Biomass power plant planned

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Southeast Renewable Energy (SRE) has chosen the Florala/Lockhart area as the site of a new $55 million biomass power generation plant that, once completed, will employ approximately 16 fulltime employees.

Monday, SRE vice president Don Cotton asked Florala city council members for their support of the project. He said the 15.2 MW plant will convert wood waste, wood chips and energy crops into renewable energy that will be supplied to an undisclosed local utility. That utility company, as well as the exact location of the plant’s site, could not be named because of a nondisclosure agreement, he said.

“We are taking a different approach to the renewable energy effort,” Cotton said. “Our proposed plants are small by design and offer the advantage of utilizing wood waste from close proximity to the plant.

“We are not reinventing the wheel – we’re using proven technology that’s been in place for many years,” he said.

SRE president Raine Cotton explained the plant’s production process.

“For example, if you go into the woods with a crew who is taking a load of pulp wood to the mill in Brewton, you’ll notice that the logs have been capped and de-limbed,” he said.

“In this process, loggers take those limbs and caps, or what we call logging residue, grind it up into mulch that’s hauled via truck to the plant,” he said. “And that’s what we use to fuel the plant – a clean renewable fuel source.”

That power is then sent via electric lines back into the supplier’s electric grid, he said.

Local logging companies, as well as mulch from municipal government operations, will be utilized at the Lockhart/Florala plant.

On average, approximately 20 truck loads a day will be needed to fuel a plant of this size, which, in turn, will generate enough electricity to power approximately 14,000 homes.

Both Cottons said future potential plant sites include Luverne, Greenville and one in Escambia County.

“Our goal is to have these plants like fast food restaurants – one every 50 to 60 miles apart,” Don Cotton said.

Construction of the plant will take approximately 18 months, and employee opportunities will range from plant manager to operators, he said.

“Think of the process similar to a grain operation,” he said. “We just want to make sure that the community is on board with this before we go any farther.”

Lockhart town council members have also pledged their support of the project, he said.

In other business, the council:

approved a temporary liquor license to Sammy Collingswood for four Ultimate Cage Fighting events, pending approval by the Alabama Beverage Control Board.

appropriated $27,900 for renovations to the old pawn shop, site of the city’s new rental property and future home of LOLA K’s Photography.

appropriated $13,000 to pave Martin Luther King Jr. Street.

awarded a bid for $225,161 for the next phase of the sidewalk project to B&H Constructing. Grant funds will be used for the project.

honored the late Mary Jane Zorn, the city’s former first lady, with a resolution.

appointed Sherry Mitchell to the Recreation Board.