Biomass Cogeneration Facility Opens at Energy Department Site
The Energy Department and Ameresco, Inc. marked the successful operational startup of a new $795 million biomass-fueled cogeneration facility at DOE's Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, South Carolina, on March 12. The 20-megawatt project created an estimated 800 jobs, and when fully operational, the plant will employ 25 fulltime jobs onsite and support the local logging community. The facility replaced a deteriorating and inefficient 1950s-era coal powerhouse and oil-fired boilers and will generate an estimated $944 million in savings in fuel costs and operation and maintenance costs over the next 20 years. Biomass, consisting of local forest residue and wood chips, and bio-derived fuels will be the primary fuel source for the high-tech renewable energy facility, which has the capacity to combust 385,000 tons of forest residue annually. The projects also was the "Renewable Recipient" of the 2012 Renewable Energy World Excellence in Renewable Energy Award for Biomass Project of the Year. SRS is a key DOE industrial complex dedicated to environmental management and cleanup, nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship, and nuclear materials disposition in support of the U.S. nuclear non-proliferation efforts.
The project is also the single largest renewable energy savings performance contract (ESPC) in U.S. history. DOE signed a 20-year fixed-price contract with Ameresco, a leading energy efficiency and renewable energy company, in 2009 to finance, design, construct, operate, maintain, and fuel the new biomass site. ESPCs are contracts in which private companies finance, install, and maintain new energy- and water-efficient equipment at federal facilities. The government pays no up-front costs, and the company's investment is repaid over time by the agency from the cost savings generated by the new equipment. This allows the government to use the private sector to purchase more energy-efficient systems and improve the energy performance of their facilities at no extra cost to the agency or taxpayers. See the SRS press release.