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Clean Power

Tallahassee has given the green light to green power.

The city council contracted with Atlanta-based alternative energy producer Biomass Gas & Electric Co., providing for construction of a $90-million plant near Innovation Park to convert wood waste to electricity and a natural gas substitute.

BG&E's plant, like this one in Vermont, will convert wood waste to electricity.

The move will make Tallahassee the first U.S. municipality to use advanced gasification biomass technology to produce electric power, says BG&E CEO Glenn Farris.

Once on line in 2010, the plant will use a low-emission process that doesn't involve burning. BG&E says its technology converts solid organic material (wood waste, for example) into a gas, which, unlike that produced in most biomass energy systems, acts as a direct substitute for any fossil fuel used in energy production. The plant will provide the city's utility with 38 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 35,000 homes, plus 60 decatherms of biomass process gas. The plant, slated for 21 acres leased from the state, will be 5-year-old BG&E's second, with 1½ times the output of the $60-million, 25-megawatt plant it plans to build this year near Atlanta to supply Georgia Power Co.

The Tallahassee project also will provide hydrogen for Florida State University research and hands-on experience for students in a working plant, says Kirby Kemper, FSU vice president for research. Farris pledged $2 million toward the proposed hydrogen research laboratory near the plant, part of FSU's Sustainable Energy Science and Engineering Center.

Tallahassee's 30-year contract with BG&E will help diversify the city's fuel mix, which depends on price-volatile natural gas for 95% of its electric-power production, says Mayor John Marks. "And this is green power. We think it will have a favorable impact on the environment.''