Maryland-based energy company U.S. Ecogen plans US$240M biomass power plant near Fort Meade, Florida; plant would use locally-grown Eucalyptus trees, sell its output to nearby utility Progress Energy

LOS ANGELES , March 30, 2012 () – U.S. Ecogen LLC plans to build a US$240-million biomass power plant near Fort Meade in Florida’s Polk County and hopes to break ground on the project this spring, reported the News Chief on March 30.

The Potomac, Maryland-based energy company will create a subsidiary called U.S. Ecogen Polk LLC to own and operate the plant, which will be built next to Progress Energy Inc.’s Hines Energy Complex.

Progress Energy, which has about 89,600 customers in Polk County, would buy the plant’s output under the plan. The plant would be fed with woodchips from eucalyptus trees grown on Florida plantations, said Bill Quinn, U.S. Ecogen’s CEO, the News Chief reported.

The estimated fuel cost for the biomass power plant is lower than for other renewable resources, at $0.06 per kilowatt hour versus $0.15/kWh for solar and $0.14-$0.18/kWh for wind, said Quinn at a March 20 meeting of Frostproof, Florida’s Chamber of Commerce.

The company already has agreements with local citrus growers to cull trees for the plant’s fuel before the eucalyptus plantations are ready, and wood can be used from uncontaminated hurricane and construction debris, Quinn said.

Ecogen intends to use eucalyptus grandis, a type that grows 10 to 12 feet taller each year, said Gordon Cox, manager of Florida Grown Specialties, a subsidiary of Phillip Rucks Citrus Nursery Inc., which hopes to supply up to 3 million of the nearly 12 million seedlings Ecogen will need.

The trees can grow as tall as 120 feet, said Cox. As many as 1,100 trees can be planted per acre, noted Rucks, the News Chief reported.

Florida’s climate allows the cold-intolerant eucalyptus trees to grow 95% of the year, Quinn said.

The huge eucalyptus plantations will absorb some of the carbon that is emitted into the atmosphere by the plant, which will also limit its emissions in the design of the smokestack, said Quinn.

The plant will employ 35 people to operate it and 55 people to grow, harvest and deliver its biomass fuel, in addition to 350 workers that will be involved in the two-year construction stage, said Quinn.

The primary source of this article is the News Chief, Winter Haven, Florida, on March 30, 2012.


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