Biomass plant generates electricity in test

A $170 million (€128 million) 49.9MW biomass-fired power plant, developed by Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative (NOVEC) and its partner Novi Energy, has commenced its trial run.

On 11 September the first flow of renewable electricity was connected to the PJM regional electric transmission grid during testing. The companies anticipate that pre-commercial operation testing and inspection of plant systems will continue for several more weeks.

Construction work on the Halifax County, Virginia-based plant is being carried out by Fagen. Novi developed and is overseeing construction of the plant for owner NOVEC.

The new facility will burn woodchips made primarily from waste materials leftover from logging operations within a 75-mile radius of the plant. This wood will burn inside the boiler to create steam that will turn turbines and generate electricity.

According to Anand Gangadharan, president of Novi Energy, the plant will use 'reclaimed water' from the local water authority for plant cooling water. As a result, it will not discharge any water into the Dan River during normal operation. The plant will also recycle leftover wood ash.

The trial run will see the facility synchronised to the grid and begin producing power. Once it starts full operations, the plant will operate 24 hours a day.

Funding for the project is a combination of a $90 million loan from the US Department of Agriculture, equity funds and state and federal grants.

The plant's opening ceremony is expected to take place in November. It will serve Novec's customer-owners.

'We've been working on this project for three years,' explains Mike Dailey, NOVEC VP of energy and business development. 'This successful synchronisation with the power grid marks a major milestone in the development of the station and now sets the stage for commercial operation.'

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