Association Applauds Georgia's Move to Biomass Power

USA Biomass, the nation's leading association of biopower companies, urges our national leaders to take a cue from the recent announcement by Georgia's Oglethorpe Power Corporation (OPC) that it will undertake the single largest biomass initiative in that state -- and maybe the country -- by building as many as three 100-megawatt (MW) biomass electric generating plants by 2015.

"This is exactly the type of project our country should be encouraging in order to meet our growing energy needs," said USA Biomass President Bob Cleaves in a Sept. 23 press release. "Not only is biomass energy effective in reducing global warming emissions, but it also creates economic opportunities for rural America, diverts tons of waste from our landfills, and improves the health of our forests."

The Oglethorpe biomass project will provide power to OPC's 38 member cooperatives that supply electricity to nearly half of Georgia's population. Investment in the plants ranged from $400 million to $500 million per facility and each providing 40 good-paying, full-time jobs. Fuel for the plants range from process roundwood, primary manufacturing residue, and harvest residue.

"Of course, Georgia is not alone in its commitment to biomass power. In fact, among USA Biomass members alone, we have 80 plants operating in 20 different states, and the industry is growing every day," said Cleaves. "In addition to Oglethorpe's outstanding new project, Texas' Austin Energy also just announced plans for a new biomass plant in East Texas that would generate 100 MW -- enough to power 75,000 homes using wood chips, straw, and other materials."

Austin Energy has committed to having 30 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020. A number of U.S. states have actually legislated similar goals.

"We're excited to see this magnitude of investment in the biomass industry from both Georgia and Texas, and will continue our efforts to encourage other states to take better advantage of the many environmental, health and economic benefits of biomass energy," said Cleaves. "Biomass is the only truly 'carbon neutral' energy. While fossil fuels actually release 'new' carbons into our atmosphere, biomass not only releases no new carbons, but also helps divert waste fuels from high polluting burning methods or landfills. In this sense, it could even be considered 'carbon negative.'"

According to recent studies, the greenhouse gas reductions from operating biomass plants are significant. For every megawatt hour of biomass power, approximately 1.6 tons of CO2 are avoided, resulting in a projected reduction of almost 30 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that biomass-based power currently provides nearly 45 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, or about 1.2 percent of the nation's electric sales. "Obviously, we are not anywhere near taking full advantage of this versatile, environmentally friendly energy -- but it's our goal to get us there," said Cleaves.

USA Biomass is the only national organization devoted solely to the growth and long-term viability of biomass-powered electric generation -- a growing industry that is strengthening America's rural economy, promoting energy independence and reducing carbon emissions.

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