Biomass or Bio-Mess? Part One: The Basics
It's been in the works now for several years and news of Gainesville's new biomass power generator has been necessarily reported piecemeal over that time.
It's been a topic of much tension and many a lawsuits.
But, by year's end if plans go through, the city of Gainesville's Public Utility will have a new generator of electricity.
A 100-MEGA-WATT Woody Biomass Plant one of the largest facilities of its kind.
CEO of the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, Jim Gordon, said "I've been a developer of energy projects for the last 38-years…"
His company is costructing the Half-Billion Dollar Plant saying "Here in the southeast United States, you have big timber industries like you have in Gainesville. You really don't have wind. the solar is pretty good. but biomass represents the baseload renewable resource."
General Manager of Gainesville Regional Utilities, Bob Hunzinger said "The biomass facility, or the GREC facility, is going to feed into our long-term resource needs..."
Hunzinger got the job after biomass was chosen by the city commission and he says "We have a number of generating units, and some of those are getting some age on them, and we're heavily fossil fuel at this time, we're predominantly coal and natural gas, and so GREC will help provide fuel diversity, and a hedge against future fossil fuel price increases. and potentially carbon, or carbon tax-type processes in the future."
Previous Mayor of Gainesville, Pegeen Hanrahan, believes "It really at the time, was sort-of the clear alternative that we should seek…"
Pegeen Hanrahan was the Mayor of Gainesville at the time Biomass was chosen and is a strong proponent of the technology.
Hanrahan told us that "It was the only alternative that was from within our area. all of the biomass that we will use in that plant, will come from within a 75-mile radius, and all of the growers, and the people who harvest the material, and so on, will live, most-likely, with-in 75 miles of Gainesville."
GREC has already contracted with local companies that will gather the Woody Biomass used as fuel for the plant, items that would otherwise rot.
Gordon explains, "basically when the loggers go in the forest to cut trees down for the paper and pulp mills, or the saw mills to build houses, the tops of the trees were left on the forest floor, where they would decompose into methane."
Gainesville resident Dian Deevey is a Stanford University graduate with a background in atmospheric science and he went on to say "Methane is not produced from rotting wood period."
Later adding, "wood is not a source of the methane that comes off soils."
Deevey and fellow Gainesville resident Paula Stahmer, acted as intervenors when the plant went in front of the state's public service commission. both say the biomass plant has the potential to be environmentally costly.'
Stahmer said, "The notion that it's carbon neutral only has sense if you have a long span of time for new trees to grow."
Last year, the EPA exempted biomass plants from carbon regulation for three years as it decides how to treat biomass carbon emissions.
"There is a committee at EPA looking into the question 'is it carbon-neutral?'" Deevey said.
One of the assumptions made when commissioners chose biomass was that the Federal Government would likely place more stringent, and costly regulations on other sources of power generation, like coal.
That hasn't happened.
And Hunzinger knows that, "You're never going to be 100 percent right in the future, and forcast you make is inherently wrong the day you make it."
Former Mayor Hanrahan says any additional carbon regulation is not necessarily needed to make biomass energy more economically attractive.
Stating, "Regardless of whether or not President Obama or Congress is successful in regulating carbon, the US Government has been sued by a number of states to enforce the Clean Air Act, and to regulate carbon."
Biomass or Bio-mess? Part Two: The Contract http://www.wcjb.com/local-news/2013/02/biomass-or-bio-mess-part-2-contract
Biomass or Bio-mess? Part Three: The Austin Example http://www.wcjb.com/local-news/2013/02/biomass-or-bio-mess-part-3-austin-example
Biomass or Bio-mess? Part Four: Counting the Cost http://www.wcjb.com/local-news/2013/02/biomass-or-bio-mess-part-four-counting-cost
- Biomass or Bio-mess? Part 3: The Austin Example
- Biomass or Bio-mess? Part 2: The Contract
- Biomass or Bio-Mess? Part Four: Counting the Cost
- GRU's GM asks for biomass renegotiations
- BioMass Plant: Silenced Committee Member Speaks Out
- Gainesville City Leaders Discuss Ownership of Possible Bio-Mass Power Plant
- GREC Says Biomass Noise Panels Are Working, Despite Not Releasing Operations Log
- Commissioners Debate Whether to Purchase Biomass Plant
- Alachua City Commissioners Explore Biomass Options
- As Residents Complain of Biomass Smell, Plant Officials Say It's Only Temporary