Biomass power plants to be built outside midstate

After considering two locations in Washington County, Oglethorpe Power Corp. has chosen to build its planned biomass power plants in counties outside the midstate.

Oglethorpe announced plans last fall to build two or three 100-megawatt plants, intended to supply more than 50,000 homes each. The company evaluated five potential sites before purchasing land in Warren County in May and land in Appling County a few weeks ago, public relations director Greg Jones said. The third preferred site is in Echols County, he said.

The plants would be fueled by woody debris called biomass, basically waste wood from logging, particle board plants and the construction industry that can be burned to create steam for power.

Jones said in an e-mail that the Warren County site, which was in direct competition with the Washington County sites, was chosen because it:

Ÿ is larger and can provide a bigger buffer between the plant and neighbors;

Ÿ has a good transmission line on the site already;

Ÿ has access to adjacent rail without requiring rail spurs to be built;

Ÿ has nearby mill residue available that the Washington sites didn’t;

Ÿ and has a lower projected cost for wood fuel than the Washington sites.

Jones said Oglethorpe still has options on all five locations, but it doesn’t plan to build a plant in Washington County at this time.

Now the company is working on an environmental assessment of the sites, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act, and applying for state environmental permits.

Jones said the company hopes to begin construction of the first plant in 2011 and bring it online in 2014.

Washington County remains the chosen site for a coal-fired power plant north of Sandersville, to be built by a consortium of electric cooperatives called Power4Georgians.

But that project is unlikely to be built soon, either. Partners representing more than half the stake in the plant pulled out earlier this year, and its permitting process could be stalled by ongoing court battles about Georgia’s permitting of coal-fired plants.

The Telegraph archives contributed to this report. To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.