Utility nears biomass deal

Image by flickr user D'Arcy NormanImage by 20080721garbage.jpg It might not look (or smell) pretty, but landfills produce a lot of methane gas, which can be used to provide energy to thousands of people.

After deciding last month to increase its use of biomass to provide electricity, state-owned utility Santee Cooper is starting to show some progress in that endeavor.

Right now, the utility is working on making a deal with an as-yet-undetermined independent producer to provide 50 megawatts of biomass power. To put that in context, a 50-megawatt power plant would keep about 25,000 homes running. Santee Cooper hopes to have the contract signed and sealed in the next month or so.

From the Charleston Regional Business Journal:

“There are several people we are talking to right now,” said Marc Tye, Santee Cooper’s vice president of conservation and renewable energy. “They would own and operate the facility, and we would purchase the output.”


“We are talking with companies both in and outside of South Carolina, but the facility would be here in the state,” Tye said.

Santee Cooper hopes to nail down an agreement within the next month and would like to see the plant in operation by 2011.

Santee Cooper announced a couple of weeks ago that they had generated more than 250,000 megawatt-hours of electricity from landfill methane. They say they're aiming for up to 45 MW of production in the future from landfill methane.

While biomass is still a very small part of Santee Cooper's overall production (even with all these efforts, we're only talking about 1 percent to 2 percent, it looks like), it's a step forward in the utility's goal of getting 40 percent of its electricity from alternative energy sources by 2020, an initiative launched last year.

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