The US Department of Energy has awarded Ameresco Inc. a sum of $795 million to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain a biomass cogeneration facility in South Carolina.
This project marks the largest single-source energy performance savings contract (EPSC) that has ever been allocated by the US federal government.
The energy generated from the plant will provide 30 per cent of the electricity needs of the 300-square mile Department of Energy Savannah River Operations Office in Aiken, South Carolina.
The EPSC funds will be used to expedite an ongoing project at the same site. Since 2009, Ameresco has been re-configuring its energy-producing facility to be not only more energy efficient but also to be more environmentally friendly.
“The old plant we replaced was 60-plus years old, and fairy inefficient,” Keith Derrington, Ameresco executive vice president and general manager of federal operations told Biomass Magazine. “It was using tremendous amounts of energy and water for its condenser process, and it also required a lot of operation and maintenance support. Those three factors will contribute to the expected savings.”
The new facility will use three biomass-fuelled energy plants, two of which provide only steam and the other which will provide both steam and power, as opposed to a singular plant that previously ran on coal and oil-fired burners.
Building three plants as opposed to one giant plant was also a matter of efficiency, said Derrington.
Geographically it didn’t make sense to try to connect all of those different thermal loads,” he explained. “There’s a localized plant at two locations that provide thermal energy, and that allowed us to eliminate four miles of steam pipeline.”
Performance tests at the new mills have been ongoing for the past six weeks, but Derrington said the facility should reach full operations during the first week of January 2012.