In November 2010, NOVEC and its development partner, NOVI Energy, began preliminary construction work on a 49.9 megawatt “green” biomass power plant near South Boston, Va., in Halifax County. The plant serves NOVEC’s customer-owners.
NOVI Energy managed, on behalf of NOVEC, full construction of the plant which began commercial operations in late 2013. The total cost of the project was approximately $178 million. A $90 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture plus equity funds, and state and federal grants funded the project.
Fagen Inc., of Granite Falls, Minn., was the turn-key engineering, procurement and construction contractor. Over the course of construction, Fagen hired more than 500 workers. NOVI hired another 26 full-time employees to operate the plant. The larger impact on the labor market is the hundreds of workers involved in forestry, logging, and other services that are needed to support the operations of this facility.
“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. We expect it to supply up to 6.5 percent of our power requirements in 2014. That’s enough to serve the equivalent of 16,000 customers.”
Biomass – A Green Alternative
The plant relies on wood waste (also called “slash”) for fuel. Slash is typically left on forest floors or burned on logging sites. Forestry consultants have determined that there is an abundance of slash within a 75-mile radius of the proposed Halifax County facility. One of the significant attributes of this facility is that it will be “carbon neutral.” In other words, it does not add any more carbon dioxide to the environment beyond what is released through natural decomposition of slash.
The plant is also cooled with ‘gray’ water from a nearby waste-water treatment facility in a closed loop. Therefore, the plant doesn’t require the use of thousands of gallons of clean water from the local water authority for cooling. The plant site is not visible from adjoining roadways because it is tucked inside 104 acres of woods.
Fact Sheet (PDF)