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Ameresco and DoE opens US$795m biomass facility in SC, USA

Officials from the US Department of Energy (DoE) and Ameresco Inc have marked the start-up of a US$795 million biomass cogeneration facility at the Savannah River Site (SRC) in South Carolina, USA.

 By Kari Williamson

The 34-acre SRS Biomass Cogeneration Facility is said to be the single largest renewable Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) in US history.

The SRS Biomass Cogeneration Facility is replacing a deteriorating and inefficient 1950s-era coal powerhouse and oil-fired boilers, and could generate an estimated US$944m in savings in energy, operation and maintenance costs over the duration of the contract.

The biomass will be in the form of local forest residue and wood chips, and bio-derived fuels. The facility has the capacity to combust 385,000 tons of forest residue into 20 MW of clean power annually.

The biomass project has created around 800 jobs, spanning the mechanical, construction, engineering, and supplier sectors. Fully operational, the biomass plant will employ 25 full-time jobs on-site and support the local logging community.

DoE Under Secretary D’Agostino, says: “Projects like the SRS biomass facility are helping to deliver energy efficiency savings that benefit both taxpayers and the environment. Hundreds of people were put to work building this new facility that will save money, dramatically reduce emissions at the Savannah River Site, and help the Department to achieve our energy saving goals.”

DoE signed onto an ESPC with Ameresco in 2009 to finance, design, construct, operate, maintain, and fuel the new biomass facility under a 20-year fixed price contract valued at US$795m.

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.

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