Biomass Plant for Gainesville, Florida

Plans to bring biomass energy to Gainesville, Florida took another step forward when commissioners from Florida’s Public Service Commission approved Gainesville Regional Utilities’ and American Renewables’ joint petition for the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, a planned 100-megawatt biomass plant.

“The PSC has taken an important step today toward significantly expanding Florida’s commitment to renewable energy,” said Jim Gordon, American Renewables chief executive officer. “The Gainesville Renewable Energy Center will bring reliable, cost-effective renewable energy to GRU customers and spur significant economic development in north central Florida, resulting in more than 700 permanent new jobs.”

Under terms of the 30-year energy contract, American Renewables will build, own, and operate the biomass facility. GRU will purchase and own 100 percent of the energy produced. The plant will be fueled by a plentiful, local supply of leftover clean woody waste using urban wood waste, wood processing wastes, and logging residues. GRU General Manager Bob Hunzinger said the utility needs to add biomass to its power generation mix for three main reasons: to improve the reliability of an aging generation fleet; to protect customers from rising costs in any one fuel type by adding diversity to a fuel supply that is currently dominated by coal; and to provide long-term cost savings to customers.

“Of the options currently available in Florida, biomass is the most cost-effective long-term choice,” Hunzinger said. “Today’s decision by the PSC will allow us to move forward with plans to ensure GRU is able to deliver reliable, competitively priced electricity in an environmentally responsible manner now and in the future.”

Since American Renewables will build and own the plant, there will be no impact on customer bills until it comes online in late 2013. Then customers will see a small increase in the fuel adjustment. Relatively early on in the contract the cost of producing the biomass energy is expected to become less expensive than fossil-fuel alternatives, and customers will benefit from the long-term price stability the contract provides.

Construction on the biomass facility is expected to begin in December 2010.

Gainesville Regional Utilities, the 5th largest municipal electric utility in Florida, is a multi-service utility owned by the City of Gainesville, Florida. It serves approximately 90,000 retail and wholesale customers in Gainesville and surrounding areas, offering electric, natural gas, water, wastewater, telecommunications services.

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