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Summary:

Despite rising controversy over a proposed $2.3 billion biomass plant in East Texas, the Austin city council unanimously approved the contract on Thursday, the local Statesman reports. Under the terms of the contract,Nacogdoches Power will construct and operate a 100-megawatt plant, which will burn woody wastes, […]

Despite rising controversy over a proposed $2.3 billion biomass plant in East Texas, the Austin city council unanimously approved the contract on Thursday, the local Statesman reports. Under the terms of the contract,Nacogdoches Power will construct and operate a 100-megawatt plant, which will burn woody wastes, including sawdust and tree trimmings, and sell the power to Austin Energy over the course of 20 years.

The plan is controversial because critics says the contract was secured behind closed doors with Nacogdoches and a competitor says it could have offered a biomass plant for a lower cost than $2.3 billion. The CEO of competitor American Biorefining & Energy Inc. sent the Austin city council the company’s own proposal for a biomass project on Wednesday and questioned the bidding process. The approved biomass project is also being looked at closely for its environmental effects, and Nacogdoches will be required to report on how the plant is affecting forests, air and water quality.

The city of Austin has set a goal of delivering 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Austin Energy currently only gets about 6 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and John Baker, the company’s chief of strategy, told us earlier this year that wind energy alone wouldn’t get them to 30 percent. If all the planned wind, solar and biomass come through on schedule, Austin Energy could be getting as much as 18 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2012.

By Katie Fehrenbacher
  1. The first time I read the 2.3 bn (BILLION!!!) I thought it was a typo. But no, they are buying power at a CapEx of $23,000 per installed kW, this is ten times more than current (renewable) competitive technology. Add to that running cost. I could have built two biomass plants for 120 million (!). But hey if they want to cough up the extra dough I’ll shure line my pockets with it. What a stupidity in Austin!

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  2. greensolutions Friday, August 29, 2008

    Wow. Considering the amount of energy that will need to be used on the front end of their process and the inherent inefficiency of centralized power generation (with NO COGENERATION, I might add), I can only imagine how much more actual renewable energy could be delivered for 2.3 billion dollars using tried and true distributed solar PV and hot water. Not only would that produce way more energy, it would also distribute the benefits more equitably. That’s a shame.

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  3. Wind farms now cost just over $2,000,000 per MW. This woodchip plant will cost 10 times that per MW. Ridiculously expensive. It is SO EASY to convince public servents to waste public money. This is an amazingly unwise contract.

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  4. [...] Just last month we reported a similar scenario, in which Georgia Power is seeking approval from regulators to convert an aging coal-fired unit in Albany, Ga., to burn renewable biomass from the local forestry industry. We’ve added this latest biomass-for-coal swap to our coal deathwatch map with a second green pin. Also last month, Austin Energy has it massive plans for a new $2.3 billion, 100-megawatt biomass plant approved. [...]

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