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Southern Company brings nation's largest biomass power plant on line

Texas Business reports: NACOGDOCHES—The nation's largest biomass plant, Nacogdoches Generating Facility, is putting electricity on the grid in Texas.  

 Austin Energy is receiving energy from the plant through a 20-year power purchase agreement.

“Today we recognize Southern Company's on-time, on-budget completion of the nation's largest biomass-fueled power plant," said Southern Company chief executive Thomas A. Fanning in a prepared statement. “This is an important milestone for the community, the city of Austin and Southern Company, as the plant provides jobs and economic impact for Nacogdoches County and further diversifies the fuel portfolios of Austin Energy and Southern Company to strengthen our nation's energy independence.”

The Texas biomass plant joins Southern Company's portfolio of alternative energy. The company, in partnership with Ted Turner, owns the nation's second largest solar photovoltaic plant and recently announced the partnership's second solar acquisition. Meanwhile, subsidiary Georgia Power is undertaking a collaborative effort to develop and install its first retail utility-scale solar power development, and Alabama Power, another Southern Company subsidiary, has acquired capacity from a wind farm being developed in Oklahoma.

For the local community, the Nacogdoches Generating Facility represents a capital investment of about a half-billion dollars. The facility will deliver $58 million in taxes to the county over a 20 year period and direct and indirect job impact of approximately $5.1 million per year.

The plant created more than 1,000 craft jobs at the height of construction and is providing 40 permanent positions.  Additionally, some 100 service contracts have been created for operating and maintaining the plant and another 25 for fuel supplies.

The plant, which occupies a 165-acre tract in northeast Texas near Sacul, will be fueled by non-merchantable wood waste. This is a combination of wood-based biomass fuels consisting primarily of saw mill or other wood mill production waste, forest waste, pre-commercial thinnings of cultivated trees, and diseased and other non-commercial tree species. There is also the potential for the use of urban wood waste, tree limbs and branches produced by storms and other non-commercial logging-derived biomass.

The Nacogdoches Generating Facility is owned and operated by Southern Company subsidiary Southern Power, which acquired the project from American Renewables, LLC, in October 2009. Construction began in November 2009 and the plant met its planned commercial operation schedule of mid-2012.