Halifax County Biomass Plant
Among renewable-energy sources in Virginia, biomasspower production is one of the most dependable, economical, and environmentally friendly alternatives available. This is especially true in Virginia’s Southside region where acres of forests and commercial logging create abundant wood waste. This region is where NOVEC built its first power plant: the NOVEC Energy Production Halifax County Biomass Plant.
The plant’s 49.9-megawatt capacity is capable of providing enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of 16,000 NOVEC homes.
“We designed the plant with the environment in mind,” says John Rainey, NOVEC’s senior energy contracts originator. “The combustion of any fuel produces some level of particulates, but the Halifax County Biomass facility has an electro-static precipitator that traps particulates in the exhaust stream and reduces them to a permitted level. We also have an ash-reinjection system that captures particulates and injects them back into the combustion chamber to burn. We distribute the final collected matter, also known as fly ash, to local farmers as a liming agent.”
The plant uses water reclaimed from a nearby wastewater treatment facility for cooling. Rainey says, “Using reclaimed water significantly reduces the need for potable water.”
The plant does more than recycle water: Last December Michael Davis, the plant’s fuel manager, began working with the South Boston Department of Public Utilities to recycle trees and brush. The plant provided a woodchipping contractor to process and deliver approximately 10 tractor-trailer loads of wood chips to the biomass plant instead of burning them at the landfill. Fred Mistal, NOVEC’s plant consultant, came up with the idea. He said, “I thought burning trees and brush in the open was not the most environmentally sound way to dispose of it.” As a renewable resource, the biomass plant will help the Commonwealth of Virginia meet environmental standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Being good stewards of the environment has always been a priority at NOVEC,” said Co-op President/CEO Stan Feuerberg. “Before 2013, we distributed electricity generated by renewable hydropower and landfill gases. We had been actively seeking an appropriate way to increase the amount of alternative energy in our resource portfolio. The biomass power plant is helping us meet our goal.