• Timber industry wants Georgia to branch out for future power

    Updated:
    ATLANTA (AP) - Representatives of Georgia's timber industry want its byproducts to help power the state.

    The plan involves branches and other scraps of wood - organic matter which could be turned into fuel, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported .

    Industry officials recently asked the Georgia Public Service Commission to take steps that would ensure "biomass" is more broadly used by Georgia Power.

    "We've got mountains and mountains of biomass," said Clay Crosby, the chief executive of Twin Rivers Land and Timber in Perry.

    Some of it was left after storms such as Hurricane Michael, which carved its way across a million acres of timberland last year. Aside from storm damage, limbs and leftover wood build up from activities like roadside pruning, logging operations and forest fire prevention efforts.

    Georgia Power's proposed update to long-range energy plans calls for more renewable energy, but doesn't specify biomass, the newspaper reported.

    Environmental groups have debated how clean the technology is. And forestry proponents acknowledge that biomass isn't the most affordable energy for consumers.

    But it could provide at least some help for the timber industry and land owners, industry representatives contend.

    Constructing several small power plants around Georgia to burn wood waste would produce a modest amount of energy and could provide a boost for those involved in the industry, Crosby told members of the Public Service Commission at its recent meeting.

    It would also be an economic benefit for rural parts of the state, said Andres Villegas, the chief executive of the Georgia Forestry Association.

    "From a rural communities perspective, this is important," Villegas said.

    Georgia Power has put the majority of its recent spending on energy generation into the nuclear expansion of Plant Vogtle, south of Augusta. The company has also pumped up spending on solar power throughout Georgia.

    Georgia Power's programs "allow for biomass to compete with other renewable resources," a company spokesman wrote in an email to the newspaper.

    "We select the options that bring the most long-term value for our customers," he said.

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    Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

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