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Halifax alternative energy plant closer to reality

A power-generating plant at the former Georgia-Pacific facility that would rely on wood waste is closer to a reality for Halifax County.

The plant took another step forward Monday when Virginia State Corporation Commission gave the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) and its development partner, NOVI Energy, interim authority to begin preliminary construction work on a 49.95 megawatt “green” biomass power plant, according to a news release from the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority.

The plant will serve NOVEC’s customer-owners.

About 300 to 400 workers are needed to construct the plant and up to 40 full-time employees to operate it.  Initial construction is planned to begin by December and the project costs are estimated at $150 million.

The Halifax Industrial Development Authority has worked with NOVI for three years to assist in the location of the plant in South Boston on the site of the raised Georgia Pacific plant. 

The proposed plant will rely on wood waste — or “slash” — on forest floors for fuel. Forestry consultants have determined that there is an abundance of slash within a 75-mile radius of the proposed Halifax County facility.

Approximately 150 indirect jobs will be created in the harvesting of wood chips from Halifax County and the Southern Virginia region, the release stated.  A-well managed forestry industry in Virginia will be the key to sustaining the supply of wood. 

The harvesting and distribution jobs that will support the plant will see a brighter future in the region.  Halifax County’s natural resources continue to be a reason that wood products and agri-business will grow and provide jobs for the community far into the future.

The site was prepared with the help of a $700,000 grant through the Virginia Housing and Community Development, among other funding agencies.  Nancy Pool, president of The Halifax Chamber of Commerce is responsible for attracting NOVI to the area and raising the $100,000 needed to support a study of potential suppliers for the plant.

NOVI Energy, a Michigan-based energy services company, is completing the development tasks necessary to advance the project. NOVI Energy will oversee full construction of the plant once the SCC approves South Boston Energy’s application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.

NOVI Energy expects the plant to start generating electricity in 2013. By proceeding with preliminary construction of the facility before the end of the year, NOVEC expects to qualify for a Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant, the release stated.

“This project will create a unique tie among the members of NOVEC, the residents of South Boston, and those of Halifax County — a model that has potential for the rest of the Commonwealth. Right now it looks like a win-win-win for everyone.” said Mike Dailey, NOVEC’s vice president of Business Development and Energy Services.
The IDA sees some of the major benefits of this plant:

- New jobs being created

- New tax revenues for the County

- New agri-business growth      

- New revenue for the Halifax County Service Authority

- New sales revenue for local businesses

- Reduced methane pollution from rotting wood

- Increased alternative energy production in our area

“This announcement goes further to cement Halifax County as a significant player in solving the nation’s energy needs”, said Industrial Development Authority executive director Mike Sexton.

“With the presence of Clover Power station and the recently announced Dominion Power solar research project, added to today’s announcement of the NOVEC project, Halifax County is uniquely positioned to be at the epicenter of power generation, distribution and transmission,” he said.

“And add to that the resources of the Riverstone Energy Center for research and development, the future continues to look bright for Halifax County to transform its economy by combining agri-business, energy generation, research and development and the jobs in advanced manufacturing that spin out of those R & D efforts.”

“Being good stewards of the environment has always been a priority at NOVEC,” said Co-op President/CEO Stan Feuerberg.

“Currently, we distribute electricity generated by renewable hydropower and landfill gases, and we have been actively seeking an appropriate way to increase the amount of alternative energy in our resource portfolio. The biomass power plant will help us meet our goal. We expect it to supply up to 6.5 percent of our power requirements by 2014. That’s enough to serve the equivalent of 10,000 customers.”

The plant will be carbon neutral.

“In other words, it will not add any more carbon dioxide to the environment beyond what is released through natural decomposition of slash,” said John Rainey, NOVEC senior energy contracts originator.

“This biomass plant will not emit any toxic elements,” Rainey explained.

“Furthermore, the proposed plant will be cooled with ‘gray’ water from a nearby wastewater treatment facility in a closed loop. Therefore, the plant won’t use thousands of gallons of clean water every day from the local water authority.”  

NOVI Energy is an entrepreneurial company that provides a broad range of services in energy consulting, energy management and energy infrastructure project development for utility, industrial, institutional and commercial companies across the United States and the world.

NOVEC is a not-for-profit corporation that distributes electricity and energy services to more than 144,000 customers in Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford and Clarke counties, and the City of Manassas Park, making it one of the largest electric distribution cooperatives in the nation.