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Biomass facility preparing for trial run

The 49.9-megawatt Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative biomass plant, South Boston Energy, will have its first trial run early this week.

According to Fred Mistal, NOVEC consultant, less than a hundred construction workers were still on site Friday, and construction, originally estimated to cost $150 million, is “virtually complete” with final checking and testing stages being completed.

During the trial run, as planned it will synchronize to the grid and “start generating power,” said Mistal.

The facility will employ 26 individuals full time and will burn wood chips as its prime source of fuel, nothing more than three inches in size.

Once the facility goes into operation, wood will be burned 12-16 hours a day six days a week.

The 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 are expected to be created in the harvesting of wood chips from Halifax County and the Southern Virginia region, according to Halifax County Industrial Development Authority officials.  

Expecting at least 7-12 percent of the ash to be waste product, the fly ash will either be trucked off site or used as fertilizer and possibly sold to farmers in the future. 

A large stockpile, “long term storage pile,” will be uncovered and used to store the wood chips up to 20-30 days. 

The facility will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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, when plans were first announced for the plant. 

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

The plant also is cooled with “gray” water from the nearby wastewater treatment facility.

The Halifax Industrial Development Authority 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 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, was responsible for attracting NOVI to the area and raising the $100,000 needed to support a study of potential suppliers for the plant. 

A grand opening and celebration for the Halifax County Biomass Plant that will serve NOVEC’s customer-owners will be held Thursday, Nov. 14, and a light lunch will be provided.