Southern Company's Texas biomass power plant

Southern Company announced recently that the largest biomass plant in the U.S. is putting electricity on the grid in Texas. Austin Energy is receiving energy from the plant through a 20-year power purchase agreement. Southern Company President, Chairman and CEO Thomas A. Fanning joined state and local dignitaries at the company's Nacogdoches Generating Facility to mark commercial operation for the 100MW unit.

The Nacogdoches Generating Facility represents a capital investment of about a half-billion dollars which is expected to deliver $58 million in taxes to the county over a 20 year period and will have a direct and indirect job impact of approximately $5.1million per year.

The facility, owned and operated by Southern Company subsidiary Southern Power, uses the newest technology available, including a bubbling fluidized-bed boiler that will give Southern Power the flexibility to use a wide range of biomass fuels and keep emissions low. The plant is part of Southern Company's overall strategy to build and maintain a diverse energy portfolio that includes renewables, natural gas, 21st century coal, new nuclear and energy efficiency.

Fueled by wood waste
The plant, which occupies a 165-acre tract in northeast Texas near Sacul, will be fueled by non-merchantable wood waste. This is a combination of wood-based biomass fuels consisting primarily of saw mill or other wood mill production waste, forest waste, pre-commercial thinnings of cultivated trees, and diseased and other non-commercial tree species. There is also the potential for the use of urban wood waste, tree limbs and branches produced by storms and other non-commercial logging-derived biomass.

The plant is said to have created more than 1,000 craft jobs at the height of construction, with 40 permanent positions. Additionally, 100 service contracts have also been created for operating and maintaining the plant and another 25 for fuel supplies.