Biomass Plant Planned for Franklin Co.

By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Lavonia

An Alabama company is planning to build two wood biomass plants in Northeast Georgia and one of them will be in Franklin County.

GreenFuels Holding Company LLC of Birmingham has already submitted applications for two pollution permits from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Air Quality Branch for a 79 megawatt plant on Highway 198 near Carnesville and a 58-megawatt plant near Colbert in Madison County.

The company plans to build the Franklin County plant on the same property where a chicken litter biomass plant had been planned several years ago.

Eric Cornwell with the EPD told the Athens Banner Herald recently that state officials have not begun to evaluate the company’s plans until a 30-day period has passed.

After that, the public will also be able to comment on the company’s plans.

Cornwell said so far, The EPD has permitted eight or nine such plants in Georgia over the past several years, but only two have actually been built and became operational, one near Barnesville and one in the northeast corner of the state.

The Carnesville plant is referred to in the EPD application as the “Franklin Renewable Energy Facility” and will burn over 607,000 tons of woody biomass, primarily clean construction and demolition material, a year.

If its permits go through, the company will convert the wood waste to energy to sell to Georgia Power and Duke Energy and already has contracts negotiated with the two energy suppliers.

Franklin County Commission Chair Thomas Bridges said he sees the plant as an economic boost to the County.

“Absolutely. It will employ about 28 people,” Bridges said Monday. “It will be running 24×7 to produce power for Georgia Power. Those who harvest timber will have a place to take that debris and it will be turned into power.”

However, environmentalists said the type of wood burning biomass plant GreenFuels is planning to build in Franklin and Madison Counties could emit toxic gases into the air and pollute the waterways.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists Web site, if not managed carefully, biomass for energy can be harvested at unsustainable rates, damage ecosystems, produce harmful air pollution, consume large amounts of water, and produce net greenhouse emissions.

Also, other pollutants could also be emitted into the air, such as CO2, nitrogen oxides and microscopic dust particles that contribute to serious health risks, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Web site.

However, Bridges said the county is confident this plant will be safe.

“We actually quizzed them considerably on that,” Bridges noted. “I’m counting on the EPD to make sure this operation will be beneficial to Franklin County. Therefore, it won’t cause any problems for any citizens.”

They plan to have the Franklin County plant operational in the spring of 2016.