Biomass Facility Nears Completion
By Anna Dolianitis – Staff Writer
Construction is nearly complete on a new, privately-funded facility at the Savannah River Site intended to replace a 1950s-era coal-burning plant and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the environment.
The Biomass Cogeneration Facility, which is being built by contractor Ameresco through a 19-year, $795 million energy performance savings contract, is expected to operate by the end of the year.
“This facility has been constructed to replace an existing coal fire plant that was over 60 years old and was providing steam and electricity to the site,” said Nicole Bulgarino, Ameresco director of federal programs. “We replaced it with new technology that allows us to burn a renewable energy source – biomass – to continue to provide steam and power to the Savannah River Site.”
The existing D-Area coal-burning powerhouse has been due for replacement for years, said Jim DeMass, DOE federal projects manager. The new facility will replace the coal-burning technology with technology “right in line with the president’s vision of clean power,” DeMass said.
The facility is nearing 98 percent completion on 38 acres of SRS land, said Ken Chacey, Ameresco site manager.
The biomass facility uses three tippers for trucks that will come in at a rate of eight to 10 per hour to transfer fuel wood chips to a truck hopper, which will lift the trucks to a 60 degree angle and unload, Bulgarino explained.
Then, a conveyer belt will feed the chips through a screening process and pass them through the transfer tower and into a fuel storage area, where the chips are stacked into large piles.
Currently, the pile of fuel chips stands about 70 feet tall with 150 loads of fuel chips but will eventually contain 600 or 800 loads, Bulgarino said.
Fuel will then be transferred to the facility’s boilers that will provide heat to make steam that will feed into a turbine to provide both electricity and steam to the site, Bulgarino said.
The facility is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100,000 tons per year, reduce sulfur dioxide by 2,500 tons per year, and reduce nitrous oxide by 3,500 tons per year, Chacey said.
“(The new facility) is different from any of the other projects on the site here, because it uses private funding,” DeMass said. “It totally reduces the risk for the federal government over that 19-year period.”
DOE will pay the contract when the site sees energy cost-savings, and at the end of the contract, DOE will decide whether to renew.
The facility employed 170 employees at the height of construction, according to Billy Cooley, Casey Industrial site manager who oversaw the facility’s construction, and about 24 employees will work at the facility on-site, some who were previously at D-Area.
The facility will serve the Defense Waste Processing Facility and H-Canyon, among others, and will provide a line to the MOX substation.
Ameresco also constructed and will operate two smaller biomass-fueled plants at SRS. Ameresco said the site’s new technology will see an annual $35 million cost-savings.
The facility has a projected start up date of Dec. 15, but Ameresco plans to be ready ahead of schedule, Bulgarino said.