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Wood-fired power facility moving forward in Halifax County

NOVI Energy, LLC is moving closer to locating a new $150 million 49.9 megawatt wood-fired power generating facility at the former Georgia-Pacific site on Plywood Trail.

Halifax County has received notification from the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that South Boston Energy, LLC has submitted an application to construct a wood-fired electricity generating facility at 1225 Plywood Trail, supervisors are expected to be told tonight when they hold their regular monthly meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room of the Mary Bethune Office Complex in Halifax.

Patsy Vaughan of the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority  (IDA) confirmed last week that South Boston Energy, LLC is NOVI Energy, LLC.

According to County Administrator George Nester, under the DEQ permitting guidelines, this facility is considered to be a new major stationary source that may affect air quality.

DEQ is required to furnish local government officials with copies of public notice regarding a major air quality permit, Nester said.

A public hearing on the energy company’s permit application has been set for Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. in the main conference room at the Riverstone Center, he added.

NOVI and NOVEC have requested that Rural Utilities Service (RUS) provide financing assistance.

According to DEQ Senior Environmental Engineer Patrick Corbett, South Boston Energy LLC submitted an application on Aug. 2 to build the wood-fired electricity generating facility on Plywood Trail.

The proposed facility’s permitted emission rates of carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen are greater than 100 tons per year, he explained. For this reason, the DEQ considers the proposed project a new “major stationary source.”

In March of 2008, Halifax County IDA announced it was courting NOVI Energy, LLC, in an effort to locate the $150 million wood-fired power generating facility at the former Georgia-Pacific site on Plywood Trail.

The announcement that the Michigan-based energy plant was considering building a facility in South Boston brought mixed responses from the community - concerns about air pollution mixed with enthusiasm that the industry will create new jobs.

Halifax County’s IDA entered into a purchase option agreement with Novi Energy to develop the energy facility here that will provide between 30-35 jobs.

Anand Gangadharan, president of NOVI Energy, LLC, said in 2008 that NOVI is spending “a significant amount of money” on the prospect of locating a power plant in Halifax County.

“It’s not a done deal, but we have very good prospects,” Gangadharan said. “We’re taking it for the permitting process, and although it’s not a done deal, it’s very encouraging.”

The NOVI president described the power plant as a basic renewable power plant that would burn wood chips.
He ruled out any possibility of the plant burning ethanol or any other liquid fluids.

“We’re solely focused on wood chips. We’re not into burning liquid fluids,” he said in 2008.

If NOVI constructs its wood-fired power generating plant at the former Georgia-Pacific site, Gangadharan said plant employees would be hired locally.

“We would need plant operators with some technical training, managers and staff specialized in administration. Most would be full-time employees with full benefits earning an annual average salary of between $55,000 to $65,000,” he explained.

Some positions would possibly pay less, but that would be an average annual salary, he added.

He emphasized the plant would not emit “much smell.”

“We’re not that kind of industry,” he said pointing out the power plant would not be similar to a paper mill, but rather a wood-burning facility.

“We would use the best technology, and you would hardly notice it,” Gangadharan added.

In addition, he said the ash from the burned wood would be returned to its original location to be used as a type of renewable resource fertilizer.

“We’re trying to be responsible on that front,” he said.

The NOVI president explained that in the summer of 2007 NOVI Energy completed a preliminary feasibility study on locating a wood-burning power plant in Halifax County with positive results.

NOVI Energy was the consultant that performed the study and presented its findings to the Halifax County Chamber of Commerce in August 2008.

Following that study, it was determined the plant would be attractive to power companies because it qualifies as renewable energy and could have a pronounced influence on the timber industry in the region.

Wood scraps left over after a logging company cuts and removes timber from the land could be used for fuel, IDA officials said.

The proposed project consists of a wood-fired power plant and associated facilities that plans to utilize treated water available from the neighboring Halifax County Service Authority’s (HCSA’s) municipal waste water treatment plant for select applications. 

The treated water would be delivered via a new eight-inch line to be constructed adjacent to an existing sewer line that serves the site. 

Truck delivery of biomass fuel would occur via State Route 879 (Plywood Trail) from US Route 360. 

An extended new turn lane would be completed on westbound Route 360 to facilitate traffic flow and avoid backups.

The facility would interconnect to the PJM Interconnection electric grid at the on-site Reedy Creek substation. 

The planned in-service date for the proposed Project is May 31, 2013, according to an advertisement set to run in Wednesday’s edition.

In other business tonight, supervisors are slated to hold a public hearing on a land use application for a conditional use permit request in ED-3 by Charles, Barbara and Brad Nutter to locate a metalcraft fabrication shop known as BSN Fabricating on Ridgeway Road in Vernon Hill.

The shop’s proposed location is on the east side of Ridgeway Road (Route 675), approximately .40 of a mile south of its intersection with Cheerful Lane, according to the application.

Also tonight, board members are expected to take the following actions:

• Listen to Virginia Department of Transportation Highway Residency Administrator Joe Barkley give his monthly status update and approve a resolution of support for Route 642 improvements;

• Hear a report from the county administrator on the USDA portable stage grant concerning whether to withdraw the application after being informed the Virginia Tobacco Commission is not likely to match the 45 percent of $200,000 projected cost of the project;

• Hear another report from the county administrator on a co-mingled recycling pilot project that will enable the county to reduce the number of trips to each recycling and convenience center from five trips to one trip to recover the recycled materials;

On Oct. 20, the county made its first delivery to the Chester recycling company taking two truckloads of materials with a combined total of 19.6 tons of recyclable materials, Nester said.

The county plans to continue this program several more weeks to determine if the recyclable program offers a cost savings to the county, he added.

• Take action on a resolution authorizing Virginia Electric Power (Dominion Power) to issue up to $140 million in tax-exempt private activity bonds known as Recovery Zone Facility Bonds;

•  Decide whether to amend the original consulting agreement with Anderson and Associates to develop a water demand projection for a 50-year period in the county’s water supply plan required by DEQ and to authorize an amendment in the amount of $10,000 to be paid by a DEQ grant;

• Respond to a request of Gov. McDonnell that 22 localities be designated drought disaster areas;

• Set a public hearing on a conditional use permit application request from W. A. Stevens who is interested in locating an Internet gaming café in ED-5 on James D. Hagood Highway on the southeast side at its intersection with Shady Lane;

• Hear a report from Finance Director Stephanie Jackson and entertain committee reports;

• Make appointments to fill two vacancies on the Halifax County Improvement Council for two-year terms that expire Jan. 31, 2011 made necessary by the resignations of Bobby Wilkerson in ED-6 and Elsie Griles in ED-2;

• Appoint Alan Gravitt to fill a vacancy on the Southside Regional Juvenile Group Home Commission effective Jan. 1, 2010 created by the resignation of Maurice Riddle and to fill a vacancy created by the death of former ED-1 Supervisor R. E. Abbott;

• Make an appointment to the Lake Country Area Agency on Aging to fill the term held by Victoria Jackson that expired Sept. 30 since Jackson is not eligible for reappointment;

• Reappoint Douglas Powell to a three-year term on the board of equalization that expires Nov. 30;

• Hear citizens comments; and

At the conclusion of Monday night’s meeting, supervisors are scheduled to go behind closed doors in an executive session to discuss specific county officers and departments; the disposition of property in the Town of Virgilina; a prospective business or industry or expansion of an existing business; an investment of public funds; consult with legal council; plans related to the security of a specific governmental building and the safety of persons using that building; and discuss award of a public contract involving public funds.