Gilbert Waldman, vice president and general manager of Sterling Energy Assets, wants the community to understand that a proposed biomass plant scheduled for construction next year will be good for Valdosta and good for Georgia.
On Tuesday, Waldman, an environmental consultant, members of the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority board, and Brad Lofton, executive director of the authority, sat down to discuss the plant, how it works and how clean it will be.
Sterling Energy Assets, a company based in Norcross, Ga. is building the Wiregrass Power, LLC biomass plant.
Waldman said the plant will not be an incinerator, as the company will not burn waste or garbage. Instead, the biomass plant will use approved wood waste to convert into energy for sale to either Georgia Power or EMC cooperatives.
The bubbling fluidized bed boiler that will be used to burn the wood waste is a very clean combustion process, Waldman said. The temperature in the bubbling fluidized bed boiler is lower than in a conventional boiler, which cuts down on emissions.
This is a more expensive technology but it results in less soot and keeps the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide to a minimum, Waldman said.
The steam turbine generator that will be used at the biomass plant is utilized by 70 percent of all power plants in the world, according to the authority.
To ensure that emissions will be kept to a minimum, Sterling Energy brought in Robert McCann, Jr. from Golder Associates Inc. to study the possible emissions and devise the best ways to keep them at a minimum.
Waldman said the biomass plant is well below state and federal emission guidelines and the plant will emit no visible emissions from its smoke stack.
“There will be nothing to impact the local area,” he said.
McCann said his job is to identify different types of controls that will limit the amount of pollutants put into the air.
These controls will include a dry scrubber and baghouse among others.
The baghouse, which is attached to the biomass wood-fired boiler, will control the amount of particulate matter emitted from the biomass plant, McCann said. The scrubber will take out the mercury and all pollutants will be continuously monitored by EPD standards.
“The impacts will be very minor in all areas around the facility,” McCann said. “We all want to protect the health and air quality of the area.”
Wiregrass Power, LLC and Golder Associates presented a breakdown between permitted emissions and actual plant emission levels for CO2, mercury, dioxins and particulate matter.
According to the documents provided to the Times, the CO2 emissions are not controlled by the air permit and therefore not calculated. There is also no limit on the amount of dioxins released but it is calculated that the Wiregrass Power, LLC biomass plant will release four pounds of dioxins each year.
The plant is allowed to release eight tons of mercury each year per air permit requirements and it is estimated the plant will release .136 pounds per year.
As for particulate matter, the permit requires that it not exceed .03 pounds per million BTU (British thermal unit) heat input and opacity shall not exceed 20 percent.
The calculations for particulate matter are based on fuel supply and are projected to be well below the air permit limit, according to the document.
Waldman said it is in the company’s best interest to closely monitor emissions. Violating the EPD’s minor source air permit results in a fine for the first offense and a plant is shut down following a second offense, he said.
“I’m not interested in being environmentally altruistic; it is purely financial to stay within air permit requirements,” Waldman said.
The technology Sterling Energy plans to install at the biomass plant here is currently in use at Snowflake White Mountain Biomass Plant in Snowflake, Ariz. and at Gallop Power Greenville, LLC in Greenville Junction, Maine.