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Biomass fuel plant coming to county

Posted: September 28, 2010 4:09 p.m.
Updated: September 29, 2010 5:00 a.m.

A new $50 million wood waste-burning energy plant to produce biomass fuel for Santee Cooper will be built in Kershaw County by late 2012.

Where the plant will be built in the county has not been revealed but the new facility is expected to generate 20 jobs and add support to logging, trucking and related industries.

A 30-year purchase power agreement was approved Monday by the Santee Cooper Board of Directors with Southeast Renewable Energy (SRE) for 45 megawatts (MWs) of biomass-fueled energy, to be produced at three plants, including the one in Kershaw County. Another plant will be located in Dorchester County, and the third site has not yet been determined.

SRE President and CEO Raine Cotton said Kershaw County was a wise choice because "it's a good location in proximity to wood supply."

He said SRE is aiming for a ground-breaking in December.

The Kershaw County plant will generate 15 MW of energy as part of Santee Cooper's 9-year-old renewable energy program. The utility already produces 22 MWs of energy from landfill methane gas, which it markets to customers as Santee Cooper Green Power.

Biomass refers to plant mass -- such as wood waste -- harvestable for conversion to fuel, according to the S.C. Energy Office.

By increasing the use of biomass fuels, the need for fossil fuels such as coal and oil is reduced. Fossil fuels generate emissions which negatively impact the environment, according to information from the energy office, while biomass is more environmentally friendly and is a renewable resource.

“Kershaw County has been working with the company for several months to locate their facility in our community to help provide much needed jobs and investment,” said Nelson Lindsay, director of the Kershaw County Economic Development Office. “We are pleased they have reached this purchase power agreement with Santee Cooper and look forward to assisting the company in finding a suitable location for their facility.”

The Santee Cooper board also approved a purchase power agreement Monday with Domtar Paper Co. LLC for renewable biomass-fueled energy at its Bennettsville pulp and paper mill.

“These contracts significantly increase the amount of renewable power Santee Cooper can provide to our customers and signify our continuing commitment to environmental stewardship and economic development in our state,” said Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper president and CEO. “These are exactly the sort of practical, cost-effective renewable projects that Santee Cooper wants to promote and support.”

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