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Oglethorpe official touts county benefits from biomass plant

When the Oglethorpe Power Corporation Biomass Plant is built in neighboring Warren County, it will have significant economic impact on Thomson and McDuffie County, according to a company official.

In addition, the new plant will mean that Warren County's current tax base will nearly double, says Commission Chairman John Graham.

The county's current tax base is listed at $491 million. The biomass plant, which will be constructed just east of Warrenton, is expected to increase the county's tax base by $400 million.

"This new biomass plant will be a big asset on this community," Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry told members of the Thomson Rotary Club during their weekly luncheon meeting at the Thomson Depot last Thursday. "This is going to be a win-win situation for Thomson and McDuffie County and certainly for Warren County."

Officials in Thomson and McDuffie County have agreed to sell on a daily basis 700,000 gallons of gray water, as well as 500,000 gallons of regular drinking water to Warren County. A contract already has been signed between officials of both counties regarding that agreement.

"I'm really excited about this project," said Jon W. Puckett, who serves as the director of Biomass Procurement program with Oglethorpe Power. Mr. Puckett, who was guest speaker of the local Rotarians, said the biomass plant offers a "tremendous" opportunity for him, as well as this area.

"We've received overwhelming support for this project," added Mr. Puckett before explaining what the new biomass facility will actually mean. "It's a proven technology."

The plant will generate enough energy to serve 40,000 homes, he said, noting there are no plans to burn any fossil fuels at the new plant.

"This is a major project," said Mr. Puckett, adding that the project is on schedule and that the new plant is expected to come on-line in 2014.

An estimated 500 workers will be involved in the construction phase of the new plant. Once completed, the biomass plant will employ 40 workers.

Mr. Puckett shared slides of the project with those attending, including an artist's rendering of what the plant will look like when completed.

The Oglethorpe Power official explained that solar waves and wind projects would not have been the way, which is why executives opted on biomass procurement.

"The economic benefit of this plant will be tremendous," said Mr. Puckett. "This plant will benefit this area in many ways and help create jobs."

Fuel sources for operating the biomass plant will come from whole tree chips, forest residues from timber harvesting, etc.

The tentative life span of the plant is 30 years.

Mr. Graham agreed with the earlier comments of Mayor Usry, saying, "This is a win-win for everybody."

Web posted on Thursday, February 18, 2010

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