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POWERED UP: Plant hooks to grid

South Boston Energy generated its first electricity and successfully connected to the PJM regional electric transmission grid at 11:11 a.m. Wednesday during testing.

The $170 million wood-fired power plant, located on Plywood Trail behind South Boston Speedway, will generate up to 49.9 megawatts of renewable electricity for NOVEC customers. It is located on a 104-acre site in the Halifax County Industrial Park in Southern Virginia. 

NOVI Energy developed and is overseeing construction of the plant for plant owner NOVEC. 

Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative and NOVI Energy announced that the NOVEC Energy Production, Halifax County Biomass (NEPHCB) plant that the two companies have been working on together near South Boston had a successful startup Wednesday morning. The companies anticipate that pre-commercial-operation testing and inspection of plant systems will continue for several more weeks.

According to John Rainey, NOVEC senior energy contracts originator and project lead, Wednesday’s successful synchronization with the power grid marks a major milestone in the development of the station and now sets the stage for commercial operation.

Rainey explained that once the unit is restarted, it will undergo performance and reliability testing in preparation for commercial operation.

After a brief period of operation, the unit will be shut down for several days, according to Fred Mistal, independent contractor consultant to NOVEC. During this time final adjustments to controls will be made. In addition, a fine screen in the main turbine stop valve will be replaced, and the catalyst will be “stacked” in the selected catalytic converter – a pollution control module.

 “We’ve been working on this project for three years,” said Mike Dailey, NOVEC vice president of Energy and Business Development. “This successful synchronization with the power grid marks a major milestone in the development of the station and now sets the stage for commercial operation.”  

The plant will use waste wood leftover from logging operations in Southside Virginia as fuel. The wood fuel, chopped into small wood chips, will burn inside the boiler to create steam that will turn turbines and generate electricity. 

“NOVI Energy had a vision that a waste-wood-fueled renewable power plant was possible in South Boston, and now it is a reality,” said Anand Gangadharan, president of NOVI Energy. “This state-of-the-art facility will be a reliable power production asset for Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative.” 

Gangadharan said the plant will use “reclaimed water” from the local water authority for plant cooling water. As a result, it will not discharge any water into the Dan River during normal operation.  The plant will also recycle leftover wood ash.  

Dailey noted that the project has helped the Southside Virginia economy by employing as many as 500 workers during construction. He said approximately 26 full-time employees are operating the plant during testing and will continue to run it once it goes into full operation.