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FirstEnergy Corporation announced on April 1 that it plans to repower units 4 and 5 at its R.E. Burger Plant in Shadyside, Ohio, to generate electricity principally with biomass. When the retrofit is complete, the Burger Plant is expected to be one of the largest biomass facilities in the United States. The announcement was made by FirstEnergy President and Chief Executive Officer Anthony J. Alexander and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland at the plant.
"Retrofitting the Burger Plant for biomass will expand our diverse generation portfolio even further and continue our support of state and federal efforts to increase reliance on renewable energy sources," said Alexander. "And, the project will provide a new and exciting future for the plant and continued economic support in Belmont County."
"This project will help jump-start the biomass renewable energy industry here in Ohio and also serve as a model for projects throughout the U.S.," said Governor Strickland. "In addition to retaining jobs at the Burger Plant, this project has the potential to create additional jobs and investments, particularly as biomass fuel suppliers work to meet the needs of this operation and as other renewable energy projects are developed in Ohio. The Burger project advances Ohio's advanced energy portfolio standard, which requires that 25 percent of Ohio's energy come from advanced and renewable energy sources by 2025."
The company was facing a March 31, 2009, deadline to determine the future of the plant under the terms of a Consent Decree related to the company's 2005 New Source Review settlement.
"We deeply appreciate the support we received from state and federal officials, union leadership and plant employees, and our friends in Belmont County in our efforts to keep the Burger Plant open," said Alexander.
Ultimately, the company expects the project to feature a closed-loop system, meaning it would use biomass derived from an energy crop grown specifically for use as a fuel source. This energy crop would act as a carbon sink, removing as much carbon dioxide from the environment when it is growing as it releases when it is burned. In addition, burning principally with biomass at the plant would produce lower emissions overall than if it was retrofitted with a scrubber.
The capital cost for retrofitting the Burger Plant to burn biomass is estimated to be approximately $200 million. Once the project is completed, units 4 and 5 of the Burger Plant could be capable of producing up to 312 megawatts (MW) of electricity – its current capacity. This is enough electricity to power approximately 190,000 homes, making it one of the largest biomass facilities in the U.S. based on generating capacity. And, biomass plants can operate continuously, providing power whenever it is needed.
With the completion of the project, FirstEnergy's portfolio of renewable energy could total more than 1,100 MW, including 451 MW of pumped-storage hydro and 376 MW of wind power.
FirstEnergy is a diversified energy company headquartered in Akron, Ohio. Its subsidiaries and affiliates are involved in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity, as well as energy management and other energy-related services. Its seven electric utility operating companies comprise the nation's fifth largest investor-owned electric system, based on 4.5 million customers served, within a 36,100-square-mile area of Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey; and its generation subsidiaries control more than 14,000 megawatts of capacity.