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Forest Fuel

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With barely 6,200 residents, Warren County lacks many of the amenities that might attract a $400 million industry.

But with most of its 181,000 acres covered in trees, it earned a coveted spot on a list of candidates for Oglethorpe Power Corp.'s planned network of biomass electric generating plants.

"We definitely plan to move forward with two plants, and the potential for a third would come later on," said Billy Ussery, Oglethorpe's vice president for member and external relations.

As part of a broadening effort to use renewable energy and reduce pollution, each 100 megawatt plant would burn wood chips and other timber products to operate steam-powered turbines.

The quest for cleaner energy is also being embraced by Georgia Power Co. and the U.S. Energy Department, which operates Savannah River Site.

"In Georgia, the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow enough for significant investments in solar and wind resources," Mr. Ussery said. "So we turned our attention to what is available: trees."

Oglethorpe, based in Tucker, Ga., bills itself as the nation's largest electric cooperative, with assets of more than $5 billion, including a 30 percent stake in Plant Vogtle.

Oglethorpe has acquired purchase options on five potential biomass plant sites, including three parcels in Warren and Washington counties and one each in Appling and Echols counties. Each site is 300 to 400 acres.

Factors used by consultants who chose the sites included transportation opportunities, the availability of wood products and infrastructure for electric transmission lines.

"When you think of a facility of this size, you're looking at a 50- to 75-mile radius around the plant site as the primary location for gathering your fuel," Mr. Ussery said. "We absolutely have to have enough wood."

Despite fluctuations in the economy, the need for clean energy will always exist, he said. Current plans call for bringing the first two plants online in 2014 or 2015.

Georgia, he said, is a virtual "Saudi Arabia of biomass and timber," with tree resources second only to Oregon.

Economic benefits

The growth of biomass generation, he predicted, will provide economic benefits for landowners and timber companies.

"Right now, in tree-cutting operations, they see 10 percent or more of waste from limbs and bark," Mr. Ussery said. "We think timber owners will also see this as a positive, because it would allow using 100 percent of the materials and they could get a little more per tonnage from their timber operations."

Operating biomass sites is expected to generate a market for some wood products that previously had little or no value.

"We don't think people are going to back trucks up and give this stuff to us," Mr. Ussery said.

Projections indicate each plant would purchase about $30 million in fuel and generate about 500 jobs in local economies, in addition to the 40 full-time jobs needed for each plant.

As an electric cooperative, Oglethorpe has filed an application for $800 million to $1 billion in loan financing through the Rural Utilities Service.

The environment

Is it possible to generate electricity, please environmental groups and make money all at the same time?

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy thinks so.

"From our perspective we're very excited about the opportunity for the state to diversify its energy supply because we're currently very dependent on coal and other resources," said Anne Blair, the group's clean diesel and bio-energy program manager.

Other major utilities are laying plans for biomass generation, she said.

One of the primary projects is Georgia Power's planned conversion of Plant Mitchell in Albany, Ga., from coal-fired to biomass generation, she said.

"That process started in December and the next set of hearings is Jan. 20-21 in which the Public Service Commission will hear arguments for their application," she said. "But we think it's a great strategy because it's cleaner than coal."

Although the technology for biomass generation has been available for decades, the growing interest of major utilities can be attributed in part to better technology and the possibility of federal legislation that could affect carbon dioxide emissions, she said.

"Right now there are a few mills that use wood residue to fuel their facilities, but for the most part, there are very few plants in actual operation," Ms. Blair said. "But there are more and more proposals on the table."

Oglethorpe, with each plant projecting 100 megawatts, and Plant Mitchell, a 96-megawatt plant, are among the largest biomass sites in planning stages.

Their success or failure, Ms. Blair predicted, will be determined largely by availability and cost of biomass fuel.

"Wood supply needs to be in a fairly close radius, and these bigger facilities have to look farther out and they have to be very, very smart about where they locate these plants," she said. "Otherwise they can be subject to changes in the cost of diesel and gasoline, which in turn affects their fuel costs."

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

GEORGIA BIOMASS ENERGY FACTS

- Most pine biomass production will come from forest industry residues -- tops and branches of Georgia's already harvested pines. Currently, unused biomass represents a large, untapped potential.


- Georgia has 24 million acres of timberland -- the second highest area behind Oregon -- and 92 percent of it is privately owned. Georgia timber owners are growing 22 percent more wood each year than is being removed from forests.


- Georgia's forest industry provides 154,000 jobs and generates $16 billion of industry output, plus $10 billion in indirect benefits.


- The industry is poised to grow by supporting a pine biomass industry with a harvest and transportation infrastructure, and by providing biomass residues. These activities should affect the economy and increase the jobs available in rural communities.

Source: Georgia Pine 2 Energy Coalition

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HTN007
19
Points
HTN007 01/11/09 - 06:45 am
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Why not do cellulosic ethanol

Why not do cellulosic ethanol while you're at it, like they are doing with sugar cane residue in Louisanna? The plant in Louisanna is already operating as of this week(check USA Today).

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 01/11/09 - 09:24 am
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hopefully, there'll be a tree

hopefully, there'll be a tree huger attached to each tree harvested. It'd hurt the Dem party, but it'd raise the national I.Q.

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 01/11/09 - 09:41 am
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Crazy. How is burning a tree

Crazy. How is burning a tree different from burning coal, natural gas, or even diesel fuel? When are ya'll going to wake up and accept science for it's principles and not it's magic? There are NO SUBSTITUTE sources of energy. It ALL comes from the sun. Whether it was the sun that was burning bright in our skies millions of years ago or the one lighting our days today. The only access we have to that energy is what is stored by plants, either growing today or millinea ago. So when it is burned to release that energy, the net effect is the SAME. Wake up people. Go to school and learn, do not buy into political propaganda.

HARLEY HOG
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HARLEY HOG 01/11/09 - 10:10 am
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duhjudge: Crawl back in your

duhjudge: Crawl back in your cave, before you see your shadow!

UncleBill
6
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UncleBill 01/11/09 - 10:51 am
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The article states a great

The article states a great deal of the biomass to be used is that which is left over from the timbering operation and is wasted; tops, branches, and possibly less desirable trees and growth that doesn't go to the paper or lumber mill. Although burning biomass HAS to produce CO2, it would not release the other toxins associated with coal. Although the smoke stack output from coal plants can be cleaned up, the fly ash that is extracted still has to go somewhere. Note the recent problem in TN with the accidental rention pond release. In addition to the little animals and plants that accumulated millions of years ago and were compressed to make coal, it also contains anything else that came along, like heavy metals. Biomass electric plants won't be perfectly clean, but they should be a lot cleaner than coal. All forms of mass produced electricity that have to do with burning something, including nuclear, make steam that turns a turbine that turns a generator. What we really need is an alien technology that has a compact non-polluting energy source that is changed directly from stored energy to electricity without having to go through the mechanical adaptation.

SandyK2005
1
Points
SandyK2005 01/11/09 - 11:46 am
0
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"Crazy. How is burning a tree

"Crazy. How is burning a tree different from burning coal, natural gas, or even diesel fuel?" ----- Not much. But wood chips don't produce as much heat for energy production as fossil fuels, so more wood is needed. Better at recycling otherwise waste, but there's not enough trees to keep up with production (there's also still the ash problem). Also still a finite resource. Can't wait for the day Cold Fusion becomes a reality, as much as it's a political hot potato (an academia fight equal to this "global warming" cat fight), yet it can answer most of our fuel problems, especially in portable form (e.g., use in vehicles). Best thing, very limited nuclear waste, and no need for hot water reactors. Folks can eventually have their CF device in their homes to power them, much like AC units. But don't expect it within our lifetime, as it can offer people energy without the need to have GA Powers providing it. True energy independence.

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 01/11/09 - 01:43 pm
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See the reaction to reason?

See the reaction to reason? Crawl back into my cave? Cold fusion? Compact non-polluting energy source? Think people think. Your words are still talking about magic not reality. For some reason, it is acceptable for some people to be given credit for their ideas, regardless how preposterous or incomplete. Alchemy DOES NOT work! Accept that, and you will understand more about the world you live in.

fredinaiken
0
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fredinaiken 01/11/09 - 04:00 pm
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DJ. Nuclear power does NOT

DJ. Nuclear power does NOT come from the sun, but from uranium atoms created when all matter was made. (E=mc2. A. Einstein.)

AMEN!!! HTN. Motor fuel from biomass is a MUCH better plan than burning biomass in furnaces to make steam to convert into electric energy. Coal is a much better way. If the global-warming nuts win politically and kill the use of coal, nuclear power is the ONLY way to go.

The Knave
24
Points
The Knave 01/11/09 - 04:20 pm
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One can always count on

One can always count on patriciathomas for vapid and stupid comments. Once again, she has been inspired by "Rush Limbaugh's Guide for Ignorant and Bumbling Sheep," and composed what she surely believes to be brilliant prose -- which any thinking person sees as incoherent drivel. The mark of the truly shallow and callow person is the reduction of all thought to the sewer of politics. The quality and cogency of AC blog postings would surely be enhanced by patriciathomas' silence. Her hatred for the "Dem party" is well documented and, perhaps, well-deserved. But, certainly no more so than is hatred for that other branch of the single political apparatus in the USA -- the Republi-con party. Her ignorance of basic facts is not evidence of anything other than her ignorance. I can imagine that being compelled to have a reasoned and rational discussion with her would be an excruciatingly painful experience.

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 01/11/09 - 04:44 pm
0
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Of course nuclear power does

Of course nuclear power does not come from the sun, it is the very sun on earth. My statement regards the conversion of organic compounds into an energy supply. Whether it is dug out of the ground, pumped out of the ground, or grown in the ground it is ALL the SAME once it's stored energy is released. These organics may be refined and concentrated to make their properties more consistent and more profitable, but the amount of energy is established and finite, You can leave it as wood chips, turn them into gasohol, whatever, and the energy rendered can only go down. They can replace coal or natural gas, but nothing is different. The same gases are released, the same chemical reactions in the atmospere continue to occur, no net benefit. That is unless you haul wood chips, own a lumber company, or sell crazy ideas to the public.

Fedupinnaugusta
0
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Fedupinnaugusta 01/11/09 - 05:27 pm
0
0
JOBS people! how about

JOBS people! how about focusing on the positive of the article.
Between the building, operation, and maintaining of such a plant, as well as the area businesses suppling goods and services to such a facility, the area might see some economic stimulas. It is pretty evident very few people posting here actually work for a living.

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 01/11/09 - 05:49 pm
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Wasting resources with voodoo

Wasting resources with voodoo science is NOT good for anybody. Creating a monster and then saying let's put people to work to kill the monster, is just plain wrong. Especially when they are using science that is popularized and exagerrated and faulty.
Accept that with your modern requirements there are costs which you do not usually think about. When you flip a switch, turn your key, or open the refrigerator you do not think about where the energy comes from to meet your expectations. And believe me, if it isn't there when you want it, you want it even more. And you probably want more than you need. There are people out there that know that your dependence is a weakness for them to exploit. Resist or stay a sheep.

SandyK2005
1
Points
SandyK2005 01/11/09 - 09:27 pm
0
0
"See the reaction to reason?

"See the reaction to reason? Crawl back into my cave? Cold fusion? Compact non-polluting energy source?" ----- What reason? This is what I mean about people stagnating and wanting to live either in the past or just the here and now, and not even WANTING to think about the future or what the future can bring! Biomass is a finite energy source, depending on wood. Wood doesn't produce as much heat energy pound by pound than coal. Even locomotives gave it up, as it doesn't produce enough heat, why they converted to coal, to electric and diesel. Get it? You'll be using MORE wood to get the SAME amount of heat for energy production as coal. In other words, TWO STEPS BACK. It gets it's interest for someone local getting bucks out of their backyard by labeling it a tad more environmentally healthy, that's it. It's not a good fuel source (less power per pound), and finite. Need infinite energy sources that don't cause ash and nuclear waste byproducts. Why things like Cold Fusion and even a Dyson sphere are better options. THINK. LEARN.

SandyK2005
1
Points
SandyK2005 01/11/09 - 09:36 pm
0
0
"Especially when they are

"Especially when they are using science that is popularized and exagerrated and faulty." ----- What do you think this article is promoting? More tooth fairies? Biomass wasn't even in your vocabulary 2 months ago, how do you think you know about it today? And who do you think even developed the concept, let alone the engineering to make it even possible? The same science you're condemning out of your political stupidity. SOME science is wrong, not ALL science. You wouldn't even be alive today if it wasn't for science; nor enjoy the comforts of modern life without it. It wasn't some confederate flag waving hillbillies who made that TV, let alone that remote control. It was scientists. The same scientists that made the internet and computing possible for you to bite the hand that feeds you.

SandyK2005
1
Points
SandyK2005 01/11/09 - 11:36 pm
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"Of course nuclear power does

"Of course nuclear power does not come from the sun, it is the very sun on earth." ----- There you have it Augusta, the brain power of the area, reducing nuclear power to "the very sun on earth". Home schooled much, DJ? Things like Cold Fusion isn't even that, it's making atomic energy right on your kitchen table, without the harmful radiation; the need for massive amounts of uranium housed in hot water reactors; nor some VERY EXPENSIVE accelerators. It operates much like a spark plug with gasoline, but this time its medium is like water. Academia (and the energy businesses are doing their best to protect their $$$$$$$$$$$$$) are ridiculing it like people ridiculed flight and rockets last century, but thank God the US Navy is still interested in it (for it'll be a MUCH better alternative to the reactors aboard ships now; let alone weapons). Politics and self-interests is what is stopping progress, not "voodoo".

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 01/12/09 - 12:21 am
0
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Your Cold Fusion is not

Your Cold Fusion is not science, it is fiction. Your faith in voodoo science has one consolation. You are not alone. People have always substituted reason with fantasy. Why do you have more optimism for the concepts that defy thermaldynamic law? Why is it that you can not accept that the universe has limits and rules? You may not like to hear the truth, you may not be able to handle the truth, but truth will set you free.

SandyK2005
1
Points
SandyK2005 01/12/09 - 01:08 am
0
0
"Why do you have more

"Why do you have more optimism for the concepts that defy thermaldynamic law?" ----- Laws, DJ, Laws. As much as I defy the Standard Model of Cosmology as some "fact" (once that String Theory that is holding it together snaps, there will be silence among that militant academia full of pseudo-debunkers, as their world comes to a screeching halt!), let alone what history has proven about naysayers being wrong over and over and over again. So, have faith, DJ, the world isn't all what it seems, nor will it end with a few *different* equations.

TechLover
15
Points
TechLover 01/12/09 - 02:57 am
0
0
PT always posts the SSDD

PT always posts the SSDD stuff. Broken record. She also tries to be the bully of the posts but now she's getting called on it a lot more. She never has any reasearch to back up an opinion, just parrots Rush,Hannity, Boortz, etc. That's exactly how they operate. Spew their boorish opinions with no backing, and on the few cases they try to back it up, it's from some right wing hack who's discredited in whatever the field of discussion is at the time.

TechLover
15
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TechLover 01/12/09 - 02:58 am
0
0
I took Cosmology once but

I took Cosmology once but they never taught me how to fix hair.

SandyK2005
1
Points
SandyK2005 01/12/09 - 03:44 am
0
0
I'll leave it uncorrected,

I'll leave it uncorrected, just to get your grammar nazi goat (probably makes your teeth hurt even). lol

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