Bioenergy Project of the Year — Savannah River Site, Aiken, S.C.
The growing field of bioenergy faces obstacles that can hinder financing for large-scale projects. But the federal government has caught on to its numerous advantages. The Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina, replaced coal and oil-fired generation by incorporating a biomass-fueled steam cogeneration plant and two smaller biomass-fueled plants. The facilities are expected to have the capacity to convert 325,000 tons of fuel per year, including local forest residue and wood chips, into 20 MW of clean power.
Financing was conducted with a system of “smart contracting,” called an Energy Saving Performance Contract (ESPC), which allows the federal government to pay for contracting once energy savings have been realized. The $795 million DOE ESPC allowed Ameresco to finance, design, construct, operate, maintain and fuel the biomass cogeneration facility, which includes three biomass-fueled renewable energy plants located at the Savannah River Site. The 19-year agreement could save the government $944 million in energy, water, operations and maintenance costs.
The project is the federal government’s largest single source of performance-based renewable energy savings, as 325,000 tons of fuel will be converted into 20 MW of clean power, which is expected to save $34 million in utility costs in the first year alone.
The project is "the large largest single-source of performance-based renewable energy savings underway in the federal government through the ESPC program," Ameresco said.
Adding to its numerous benefits, since construction began in 2009, the project is estimated to have sustained and created approximately 800 jobs spanning the mechanical, construction, engineering and supplier sectors over the 30 month construction period. The plant will sustain 25 full-time jobs on-site.