Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oglethorpe Power Purchases Biomass Site in Warren County

/PRNewswire/ -- Oglethorpe Power Corporation today closed on the purchase of a 355-acre tract in Warren County, Ga., for a proposed biomass electric generating plant. The Warren County site, off East Warrenton Road, was one of five Georgia tracts optioned by Oglethorpe Power last fall as potential sites for two, and possibly three, planned 100-megawatt biomass facilities.

All five sites that were identified appear to meet project criteria. Following several months of further study, two of those sites, located in Warren and Appling Counties, are preliminarily identified as preferred locations for the first two biomass plants. A third site under option in Echols County remains in consideration as an alternative to the two preliminarily preferred sites, or as the site for a potential third plant. Oglethorpe Power also retains options on two alternative sites in Washington County.

Although preliminarily preferred, the sites in Warren and Appling Counties cannot be considered final until they undergo an independent environmental review and evaluation as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. This process, which will examine all the alternative sites, will include several public meetings near the preferred sites to gather input on environmental issues.

Oglethorpe Power Chief Operating Officer Michael W. Price said the environmental review will take place over the next 18-24 months. During this time, Oglethorpe Power will also be working with the state Environmental Protection Division to begin the process of obtaining the necessary environmental permits.

"This purchase of land in Warren County is an important milestone as our plans to build and operate Georgia's largest group of biomass generating plants continue to move forward," Price said. "These plants will have a very positive economic impact on the host communities and surrounding regions while bringing much-needed, renewable energy to EMC consumers throughout the state."

The biomass plants will generate electricity by burning a woody biomass mixture expected to consist primarily of whole tree chips and chipped pulpwood, along with wood waste from saw mills and wood remaining in the forest after clearing. Each plant will require a capital investment of $400 million to $500 million. Several hundred workers will be employed during construction, with about 40 permanent jobs required for operating each plant. In addition, an estimated 400 to 500 more jobs per plant could be generated within the forest industry to gather and transport the more than one million tons of wood chips expected to be required annually to fuel each plant.

Price said Oglethorpe Power expects to begin construction on the first plant in 2011, followed by commercial operation by the summer of 2014. The second plant will be placed into service in early 2015. A decision will be made later on whether a third plant will be built. If so, it would also go into service in 2015.

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