ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Georgia Power is a step closer to changing Plant Mitchell from a coal-fired power plant to one that uses renewable biomass wood.
That switch will create as many as 75 jobs for south Georgia and provide a way to use a resource that's currently being dumped in landfills.
To help make the conversion possible, the Payroll Development Authority approved a resolution to make $130 million in low interest bonds available to Georgia Power. It will help create the largest wood-fueled biomass generating facility in the country.
Certified Arborist David Edwards says Georgia has the same number of trees today that it had in 1958. A plan to convert Plant Mitchell into a bio-mass facility could put that resource to better use. Right now excess tree debris is thrown out, often at the tree services expense.
"I added up some tickets that I had recently and for one day it was $160. So if you just multiple that by four for a month alone, that would cut our costs by $640," he said.
By converting Plant Mitchell, that excess could be burned for energy, with better environmental benefits, and the demand is already there.
"We have a number of our customers that are looking for green energy and this will deliver it on a large scale," said Ronnie Walston P.E., Plant Mitchell Manager
While the ball is rolling, conversion of the plant is still four years away. "We have made the filing with the public service commission, we should get an answer by spring of next year. We're working on our air permit application and we'll file that in december we expect to hear something on that in the spring of 2010," Walston said.
Construction would begin in 2011, and will not only create, but retain jobs that might have been lost if the plant closed.
"The construction that will be going on that the plant will enable so many more people to get jobs, keep people working, a lot of folks in the construction business are down on hard times right now," said Jeff Sinyard, Albany Dougherty Payroll Development Authority Chairman.
From city leaders, to plant officials, to those on the front line clearing trees everyone see the project as good news.
"I see no drawback what so ever," Edwards says. "You're taking something that, not only is it sad that we have to pay to get rid of it, but the other part of it is you're filling up your landfill space with something that you could have burnt."
The Public Service Commission must still approve the project. The project could cost Dougherty County some sales tax revenue it now receives on the coal delivered to the plant.