Two months after the US Department of Energy awarded Ameresco Inc. $795 million to finance the country’s largest biomass cogeneration plant, production began at the South Carolina facility this week.
The Savannah River Site Biomass Cogeneration facility will convert biomass to power, turning 385,000 tons of forest residue into 20 megawatts of energy each year. That energy will be used to provide 30 per cent of the electricity needs for the 300-square mile Department of Energy Savannah Operations Office in Aiken, South Carolina.
“Projects like the SRS biomass facility are helping to deliver energy efficiency savings that benefit both taxpayers and the environment,” said US energy undersecretary Thomas D’Agostino during the ribbon cutting ceremony held Monday. “Hundreds of people were put to work building this new facility that will save money, dramatically reduce emissions at the Savannah River Site, and help the Department to achieve our energy saving goals.”
Prior to these upgrades, the plant in Savannah was a 60-year-old facility that, according to Ameresco executive vice president Keith Derrington, was highly efficient.
“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,” he told Biomass Magazine in January.
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.
EcoSeed reported that this new facility is estimated to make $944 million in savings in energy, operation and maintenance costs over the duration of a 20-year fixed-price contract.