Georgia Power still working on Mitchell coal-to-biomass conversion

Georgia Power is continuing its evaluation of the certified conversion of the coal-fired Plant Mitchell Unit 3 into a biomass unit, though the decision whether to proceed with the conversion has been delayed.

“There are pending federal environmental rules and regulations that may have an impact on the Plant Mitchell biomass conversion and greater clarity of these rules are anticipated within the next two years,” said the Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) subsidiary in a Nov. 30 update filed with the Georgia Public Commission about its renewable energy projects.

The EPA rules in question include:

  • Industrial Boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (IB MACT) Rule;
  • 316(b) Water Regulations;
  • PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standard;
  • Coal Combustion Residuals Rule; and
  • Biomass Carbon Accounting for Prevention of Significant Deterioration and Air Permitting.

“Because of uncertainties surrounding these rules, the Company has delayed the decision to proceed with the biomass conversion at Plant Mitchell,” the utility noted. “On October 26, 2011, the Georgia Public Service Commission (‘GPSC’) approved Georgia Power’s plan to delay the conversion project for two to four years.”

In a May 9 order, the commission approved the company’s plan to study Direct Injection (DI) technology for the Mitchell biomass conversion. The DI method under consideration for Mitchell involves injecting woody biomass fuel directly into the existing pulverized coal boiler. DI requires significantly fewer changes to the existing Mitchell unit as compared to the conversion to either a stoker or bubbling fluidized bed (BFB) boiler. As a result, the conversion to DI may cost significantly less than originally projected for the stoker or BFB conversions. The commission ordered the company to provide the commission staff the results of the DI study no later than the company’s 2013 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) filing scheduled for Jan. 31, 2013.

The EPA planned to issue the new final Industrial Boiler MACT rule in the spring of 2012, but the rule has not been issued, the utility noted. The EPA has not announced a new schedule.

Georgia Power also outlined some of its in-the-works renewable energy projects. The company said it continues to seek cost-effective renewable projects and has either evaluated, or is currently evaluating, landfill methane gas, digester methane gas, wood biomass, and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects with developers and customers. Evaluations have been completed on over 30 potential biomass, landfill methane gas, or digester methane gas projects and over 50 potential PV solar projects to date, however, no commitments have been made for specific self-build projects. In addition, the company continues to monitor potential projects listed on its April 2012 report that are not shown on this report due to lack of recent activity.

Potential projects mentioned are:

  • U.S. Army Renewable Energy RFP: The U.S. Army on Aug. 7 issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the eventual procurement of $7bn in renewable and alternative energy purchased under 30-year or less power purchase agreements (PPAs) from solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and other projects. Projects will be owned, developed, constructed and operated by developers using private sector financing and will be located at or near Army installations. Proposals from developers seeking contracts with the Army allowing them to bid for future project-specific task orders had to be submitted by Oct. 5. Southern Company Services submitted a consolidated response to the Army Renewable RFP as an agent for Georgia Power. The company’s response describes the value of the existing retail rate structure in accordance with state laws and regulations ensuring sound economics, fiscal prudency, and equity for all rate payers. The response did not provide a firm-fixed price offer and was for solar and biomass technologies. The company’s response also stated that the Army would bear all costs above avoided cost benchmarks.
  • Department of Defense Renewable Generation Study – Update: Georgia Power continues to investigate renewable energy options that would enable the U.S. Department of Defense to meet a portion or potentially all of its legal and policy obligations for renewables, resource conservation, greenhouse gas emission reduction and energy security under federal law and regulations. Georgia Power is seeking to determine if joint projects with Robins Air Force Base, Kings Bay Naval Base, Marine Corps Logistics Base, Fort Stewart and Fort Benning could meet each of their needs and be in the best interest of the company’s other customers.
  • 1 MW Company-Owned Solar Project: Georgia Power has received regulatory approval to build a 1-MW portfolio of medium-scale solar demonstration projects across the state. Georgia Power is actively pursuing such projects. To date, no commitments have been made for specific projects.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.