One major hurdle now has been cleared with Tuesday’s county commission approval, but two more obstacles still hang in the balance on whether ScrevenCounty will become a future site of a $100 million biomass power plant that would be constructed in the industrial park.The commission unanimously approved the county planning and zoning board’s recommendation to amend a zoning ordinance to include wood pellet mill plants within the ScrevenCountyIndustrialDevelopmentPark.The board, however, did amend another planning and zoning board decision before its approval.In a May 21 decision, the planning and zoning board recommended an amendment to include electrical generator plants of up to 30 mega watts in the industrial park.The commission June 23 instead approved the acceptance of the plants without a limit on mega wattage.Commissioners Roland Stubbs and J.C. Warren both questioned the reasoning for a 30 mega-watt limit.“I prefer not to have a cap,” said Stubbs, adding that potential plants would want to “make some money.”With the change of no wattage limitations, the planning board’s recommendation passed unanimously.
The county’s planning and zoning board voted 3-2 May 21 to recommend that county commissioners change the zoning law to allow an electric power plant up to 30 megawatts as a permitted use in the park. Last month planning and zoning board members Tommy Pace, Bobby Smith and Andy Durrence voted for the change. The chairman of the planning and zoning board, Emerson Scott, and board member Charles Parker voted against it.
A private company that builds and operates power plants in nine states and many foreign countries has considered building a power plant that would be fueled by wood pellets. The company also has pondered building a plant that would make the wood pellets at the same site. Screven County is one of a number of locations the company is considering nationwide, said Gayle Boykin, executive director of the Screven County Development Authority.
The size of the plant could range from 25 megawatts to 60 megawatts, but zoning board members said their recommendation to allow up to 30 megawatts should get things started.
Boykin said the company is expected to spend $100 million to build the plant, which would provide 25 to 30 jobs. As many as 200 people would be employed during construction.Farmers within a 50-mile radius would be asked to provide wood to power the plant. Truckers also may get more work bringing in supplies, although some of the material may go by railroad transport. Also, the City of Sylvania would make money from selling wastewater to operate the plant.The plant would use “gray” water, not freshwater.“We’ve gotten past this hurdle. Now we’ve got to work out the water issue,” Boykin said. “We don’t have any.“In order to supply gray water, the city would have to completely revamp their water system,” Boykin said.Underground pipes that would carry the water to the industrial park site could cost as much as $6 million, she said. Some days, plants may use as much as 650 gallons of gray water.The third issue, Boykin said, would be that the company would need to sell electricity in a 20-year agreement.“If we can work these issues out, we would be a prime site for this company or any others,” Boykin said. “There are a lot of things that are a long way off, but if we haven’t gotten past this first one, it wouldn’t have mattered.”Boykin said she appreciated the boards working to make this more of possibility.“This showed the commissioners being supportive of the planning and zoning board’s recommendation,” she said. “It is very encouraging. It is very encouraging for everybody.”
Officials from the county and the City of Sylvania have talked with the company about the project since February.
The plant eventually would pay property taxes, too, Boykin said. Usually, such companies request a break on taxes at the beginning of the project.
If ScrevenCounty were chosen for the project, it would be four years before it could begin production – one year for the permitting process and three years for construction.
Boykin said another benefit would be announcing to the world that ScrevenCounty welcomes business. The plant would take 20 to 50 acres of the 400-acre industrial park, leaving plenty of room for other industry.