Wednesday, February 10, 2010
PSC almost knocks down Gainesville biomass plant
Conceptual rendering of American Renewables proposed plant in Gainesville
The Florida Public Service Commission on Tuesday appeared ready to vote down a proposed biomass power plant in Gainesville before city officials asked the PSC to delay the vote.
Gainesville officials say the 100-megawatt American Renewables LLC plant will provide needed renewable energy and reduce the city's dependence on coal plants, which contribute greenhouse gases.
But three of the five PSC commissioners said they would have difficulty voting to declare that the plant is needed as required by state law.
The city won't need the power produced by the plant until 2023, even though the plant would begin operating in 2013, according to the PSC.
City officials hope to sell power to other electric utilities and benefit from a federal investment tax credit and greenhouse gas legislation pending in Congress.
But if the city can't sell the power, the plant will cost $100 million during the 30-year life of the project, according to the PSC.
"They are taking a huge risk with rate-payers' money here," Commissioner Nathan Skop said. Still, he and other commissioners praised Gainesville for planning ahead for its power needs -- perhaps too far ahead.
The PSC delayed action at the request of Gainesville officials, who said they wanted to present additional information before the commission voted at a later date.
Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan said after the meeting that building a smaller plant may not be as cost-effective. She said the city is on a tight deadline to take advantage of the federal tax credit.
"That makes a substantial difference in the economics of the project," she said. "To try to remain on track enough that we can still qualify for that 30 percent tax credit."
She also said the city had delayed its need for the new power plant through an aggressive program to promote solar energy and conservation.
(Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)