HARLEYVILLE — Orangeburg County forester Beth Richardson says the Pinelands Biomass project dedicated Thursday in Dorchester and Allendale counties will benefit local forest landowners.

“They will be pulling fuel chips out of counties,” Richardson said. “A lot of landowners own property that don’t have quality trees on it. You can’t round wood or clean chip and so this will give them a fuel-chipping option.”

Richardson said those landowners on the eastern end of the county, particularly in the Holly Hill and Eutawville areas, and those closest to the plants will benefit the most.

“You are not looking at a high-value crop here,” she said, noting landowners may be able to receive about 10 cents a ton at best. “It depends on the diesel fuel and the travel time. This is the limiting factor.”

EDF Renewable Energy and Santee Cooper dedicated the project, which consists of two 17.8-megawatt generating facilities in Allendale and Dorchester counties.

The Dorchester facility achieved commercial operation Nov. 1 and the Allendale operation followed on Nov. 19.

The two projects interconnect to Santee Cooper’s transmission system adjacent to the sites with the generated renewable energy contracted to the utility under 30-year power-purchase agreements.

The projects use a biomass design with a stoker boiler and a steam turbine generator.

The facility generates electricity by burning roughly 280,000 tons of logging debris per year. Debris will include virgin wood residue, such as tree limbs and woody right-of-way clearings, for a portion of the plant’s biomass fuel source.

The plant would provide enough electricity to power about 15,000 homes.

EDF Renewable Energy will sell the green power to Santee Cooper.

Santee Cooper provides power to the city of Bamberg and earlier this month the utility and the Bamberg Board of Public Works agreed to a new 20-year contract. Santee Cooper has provided electricity to Bamberg since 1977.

“Biomass is poised to be a key renewable base-load energy resource for South Carolina and we are pleased to work with Santee Cooper on this excellent opportunity to produce economically attractive renewable energy,” said Tristan Grimbert, president and CEO of EDF RE. “Utilizing wood waste to generate electricity is a proven renewable technology that complements EDF Renewable Energy’s robust portfolio of wind, solar and biogas projects in North America.”

“Santee Cooper was the first utility in the state to deliver electricity to all our customers from new renewable resources 12 years ago,” said Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper’s President and CEO. “Today represents a new milestone for us and for South Carolina. The partnership forged with EDF Renewable Energy helps advance Santee Cooper’s role as the state’s leader in generating renewable energy.”

Bibb Engineers was the engineer of the project and Summit Industrial Construction was the general contractor. EDF Renewable Services will provide long-term operations and maintenance.

Santee Cooper directly serves 165,000 residential customers in Berkeley, Georgetown and Horry counties. Santee Cooper also generates the power distributed by South Carolina’s 20 electric cooperatives.

Officials tout the biomass facilities as bringing economic benefits to both counties by contracting with the existing trucking and wood-supply industries. Additionally, the two facilities have created over 250 construction jobs and 38 full-time positions.

The plants have received general support from local, state and federal officials, as well as environmental groups.

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