Biomass remains a challenge even in timber-rich Georgia

A new biomass plant under construction in Georgia highlights the challenging economics of the technology, even in a state so rich in forestry waste it exports it to other countries.

The 50 MW Albany Green plant – the largest renewable energy project in the state so far – is a unique collaboration among Georgia Power, private companies (including Procter & Gamble) and a nearby Marine base. While the cost for biomass generated electricity is too high to compete with wind and solar, the project also produces steam for industrial use, which improves its economics.

Because Albany Green is situated in the midst of rich timber tracts, biomass harvesting will be restricted to a 100 mile radius, and will include forestry residues locally sourced that would otherwise have been left to decay, burn or dispose of in a landfill. This includes trees not suitable for saw or pulp mills, discarded tree tops, limbs or branches, sawdust, mill waste, demolition debris and the seasonally available shells of pecans and peanuts.

“This plant represents years of planning and deadline extensions in an effort to utilize pine trees and forest debris in generating electricity,” explains Tim Echols, vice-chair of the Georgia Public Service Commission. “It was no easy thing to bring about this biomass power plant.”

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