September 18, 2014

Alternative Energy

Reaching Critical [Bio]Mass

Charlotte Crane | 8/1/2009
Northwest Florida may be on the verge of becoming a go-to region for biomass-to-energy plants looking for a home.

Lonnie Ingram
UF microbiologist Lonnie Ingram developed a process to convert leftover wood from logging into fuel and biodegradable plastic.

The Green Circle Bio Energy plant, owned by a Swedish company, has been operating for more than a year in Cottondale in Jackson County, producing wood pellets at the rate of 500,000 tons a year. The pellets are shipped to Europe, where they’re burned along with coal in power plants. Fueling demand for the pellets are European Union rules requiring countries to generate 20% of their electricity from renewable sources.

Two more plants that use biomass are now slated to be built in the region:

  • The University of Florida will build an experimental ethanol plant at the site of Buckeye Florida pulp mill near Perry in Taylor County to convert leftover wood from logging into fuel and biodegradable plastic. The process, developed by UF microbiologist Lonnie Ingram, has aroused concern over its use of E. coli bacteria, though genetically modified, to convert plant material into ethanol. The plant had been slated for Palm Beach County, near Florida Crystals’ Okeelanta mill. UF and Florida Crystals decided the plant wasn’t feasible at that site after a partnership of the Verenium Corp., BP and the Lykes Brothers began moving to build a plant with similar technology in nearby Highlands County. In addition, a Florida Crystals spokesman told the Palm Beach Post that the $20 million appropriated by the Legislature for the demonstration plant was proving to be insufficient to build the facility. The Perry plant will be smaller than anticipated and use a wider range of feedstocks.
  • A $200-million electrical generating plant that was to be built in Tallahassee will now be built in Port St. Joe. The Northwest Florida Renewable Energy Center, owned and operated by the Georgia-based Biomass Gas and Electric Co., will gasify some 735 tons of wood waste a day to generate about 42 megawatts of power after its completion, estimated for sometime in 2011. The plant became a political casualty in Tallahassee after objections from neighborhood groups about possible pollution and after criticism involving FSU’s connection to the project.

Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell’s wife, Virginia, has an ownership stake in BG&E, which had a deal to build the plant on land owned by FSU. BG&E expects to complete the plant by early 2012. Florida Progress has agreed to purchase the electricity it generates.

Tags: Environment, Northwest

Digital Access

DIRECT DIGITAL ACCESS
Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single ditgital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.

ACCESS THIS ISSUE »

Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Epcot's executive chef showcases what's new for Food & Wine Fest 2014
Epcot's executive chef showcases what's new for Food & Wine Fest 2014

Jens Dahlmann, Executive Chef of Epcot Food & Beverage at Walt Disney World Resort, talks about each of the new dishes to be featured at the 2014 edition of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Who gets your vote for governor - Scott or Crist?

  • Rick Scott
  • Charlie Crist

See Results

Ballot Box
Subscribe