$100 million plant gets thumbs-up from Middle Georgia planning agency

mstucka@macon.comNovember 5, 2012 

A proposed $100 million wood pellet plant on the Wilkinson-Jones county border was given a thumbs-up Monday.

The Middle Georgia Regional Commission decided Monday that the plant was in the best interest of the region and therefore of the state. That’s one important hurdle for the plant, said Ben Easterlin, senior vice president for operations at Enova Energy Corp., which hopes to build the facility.

“We’re happy, glad to get the process done, move toward finalizing this project,” Easterlin said. “That’s the first step ... making sure you’re approved to do business in this area.”

The company is working to line up financing for the plant and expects to make a decision on whether to move forward in the next few months, Easterlin said.

Easterlin previously told The Telegraph the plant would bring about 150 construction jobs and 70 direct operating jobs. More work would come from support industries such as timber, gas stations and hauling.

Easterlin said the site -- near Ga. 18 and Nitrogen Road -- has advantages including good access to logistics, Savannah’s port, utilities and the wood to make the pellets. If built, the plant would supply utility-scale power plants in Europe and use wood from a 60- to 70-mile radius.

“It’s a great site, it’s a great location, it’s a great opportunity, and we’d like to build there,” Easterlin told The Telegraph last month.

Enova has proposed building three such wood pellet plants. In September, The Augusta Chronicle newspaper reported that Enova was planning a $110 million wood pellet plant near Trenton, S.C., and planned two more facilities in Georgia, including one near Augusta.

Kristi Harpst, a regional planner with the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, said the proposal for the site on the Wilkinson-Jones county border has drawn the interest of the Georgia Department of Transportation, which wants to know more about traffic controls. Enova is proposing a traffic study, as well as acceleration and deceleration lanes at the intersection of Ga. 18 and Nitrogen Road.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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