New biomass plant near Dublin, GA: what it’s really about

Not really about jobs, and not about feeding electricity into the grid: the new biomass plant near Dublin, GA is about saving that company money on electricity: but at what cost to the state and to local residents?

Mike Stucka wrote for 6 December 2012, Deal announces $95 million biomass power plant for Laurens County,

A new biomass power plant announced Thursday is expected to bring hundreds of related jobs and a direct $95 million investment.

A statement from the office of Gov. Nathan Deal said the plant itself will bring 35 permanent jobs to Laurens County.

Compare 35 permanent jobs for $95 million to MAGE SOLAR’s 350 jobs for $30 million. That’s about $2,700,000 per job for this deal, vs. $85,714 per job for MAGE SOLAR. Which would make MAGE SOLAR’s facility more than 30 times more effective at producing permanent jobs.

OK, but what’s this one supposed to do?

The new biomass power plant, which will be built at an existing paper mill, will provide steam to the mill and also generate 56 megawatts of electricity for the electrical grid, according to the statement.

The investment is being made by Dublin-based Green Power Solutions, which has been working more than 18 months with Beasley Forestry Products and Land Care Services, Deal’s statement said.

The power plant is expected to be the largest renewable energy qualifying facility developed so far in Georgia.

Cal Wray, president of the Dublin-Laurens County Development Authority, told The Telegraph that the power plant will be placed at the SP Fiber Technologies paper mill just outside East Dublin off Ga. 199.

According to Georgia Facts, Sp Newsprint Co LLC is located at 709 Papermill Rd, Dublin, GA 31027-2494. Their own website registration says 709 PaperMill Road Suite 1800. That’s the same address as Newark Paperboard Products, 709 Papermill Rd, Dublin, GA 31027-2494. Parent company: Newark Group Inc., Cranford, NJ.

According to undated SP FiberTech PR (carried 11 September 2012 by Atlanta Business Chronicle and by SP Recycycling’s About web page),

Dublin, GA—September XX, 2012 — SP Fiber Technologies LLC (SPFT) has announced today that it has successfully acquired substantially all of the assets and certain liabilities of SP Newsprint and its subsidiaries in a court-approved sale.

SPFT will relocate its corporate headquarters to its facility in Dublin, Georgia. The company will operate its mills in Newberg, Oregon and Dublin, Georgia as well as its wholly-owned subsidiaries SP Recycling Southeast LLC (SPRS) and SP Recycling Northwest LLC (SPRN). Based in Atlanta, Georgia, SPRS and SPRN are leading recyclers of recovered paper and other recovered commodities in the Southeast and the Pacific Northwest. The two recycling companies collect, process, and ship high quality material from 21 processing facilities in 9 states.

Jay Gurandiano will serve as Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer. He has held senior management positions at Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation and founded St. Laurent Paperboard, a major specialty packaging paperboard and converting company. Mr. Gurandiano will also oversee SPFT’s recycling businesses. Mr. Gurandiano has put together a senior management team made up of seasoned industry managers to lead the new company.

There’s a bit more information in a blog post by SP Recycling Southeast LLC 17 September 2012, SP Fiber Technologies debuts in Pulp & Paper Week,

Guarandiano[sic] also said energy will figure in SPFT’s development plans, but declined to give details other than saying the company is bringing in consultants. The Dublin mill has 75 MW of co-generation capacity but still relies on coal for 45% of its fuel demands and needs to purchase almost 60% of its electrical power. In contrast, Newberg installed a $70 million 130 MW co-gen facility in 2003 that is fueled 80% by bark/biofuel, 15% by sludge, and 5% by natural gas, making the mill more than self-sufficient in electrical requirements.

Those articles provide quite a few leads on Guarandiano’s past history, if anybody wants to dig in and find out for example, just how efficient is this Newberg co-gen facility at keeping pollutants out of the atmosphere. That would be very interesting to know.

Meanwhile, if the existing 75 MW is 55% of the plant’s electrical needs, the total needs must be about 136.35 MW, and the remaining 45% must be about 61 MW. According to this month’s PR, the new biomass facility will generate 56 MW. So what SP Fiber is really doing is generating almost enough local electricity to take it off the grid. Which has the benefit to the state of stopping using coal.

As long as it really does use only locally-generated tree limbs, tops, etc. that would otherwise be discarded in existing operations, this biomass plant could be a minor benefit for reducing Georgia coal use and producing a few jobs. If it’s not at least better at producing less CO2 and small particulates than Plant Scherer, the country’s dirtiest coal plant, near Macon, then it’s a net detriment to the state. And Dublin and Laurens County locals might want it to be much better at that than Plant Scherer, because it moves the source of such pollution to their neighborhood. As a job generator, it’s not terribly effective, compared to for example MAGE SOLAR.

You know, if Gov. Deal spent as much time promoting solar and wind energy in Georgia as he does promoting biomass, we might get somewhere.