The Savannah River Site, a federal research facility in Aiken, South Carolina best known for its work in nuclear science, has opened a $795 million biomass cogeneration facility, which officials are describing as the single largest renewable Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC) in the nation’s history.
The 34-acre SRS Biomass Cogeneration Facility is the culmination of 30-months and more than 600,000 hours of labor, said dignitaries who attended the plant's operational startup Monday.
“Developing clean, renewable sources is an important part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above approachto American energy,” said Under Secretary of Energy Thomas D’Agostino, addressing an audience of approximately 150 stakeholders and employees during the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“Projects like the SRS biomass facility are helping to deliver energy efficiency savings that benefit both taxpayers and the environment. Hundreds of people were put to work building this new facility that will save money, dramatically reduce emissions at the Savannah River Site, and help the Department to achieve our energy saving goals,” D’Agostino added.
The cogeneration facility replaced a deteriorating and inefficient 1950s-era coal powerhouse and oil-fired boilers, and will generate an estimated $944 million in savings in energy, operation and maintenance costs over the duration of the contract.
Clean biomass, consisting of local forest residue and wood chips, and bio-derived fuels will be the primary fuel source for the high-tech renewable energy facility, which has the capacity to combust 385,000 tons of forest residue into 20-megawatts of clean power annually.
“This is a day for celebrating teamwork and progress. The DOE/Ameresco Project Team did a tremendous job seeing this project through construction to operational startup,” said DOE Savannah River Manager Dave Moody. “The SRS Biomass Cogeneration facility is the pinnacle of success in the Site’s contributions to support the Department’s energy efficiency goals. Startup of this renewable energy facility is proof in motion that we are committed to E.SRS initiatives geared toward utilizing SRS’ assets and the knowledge and expertise of our workforce to secure a high-impact future for SRS and to meet national challenges in strategic areas like clean energy.”
The Energy Department signed onto an ESPC with Ameresco in 2009 to finance, design, construct, operate, maintain, and fuel the new biomass facility under a 20-year fixed price contract valued at $795 million.
“Today is the capstone on what has been a tremendous endeavor for our partnership. Together with the Department of Energy, the Savannah River Site, the State of South Carolina and our local and regional partners, we’ve built an award-winning, large-scale sustainable power resource,” said George Sakellaris, Ameresco President & Chief Executive Officer. “This SRS Biomass Cogeneration Facility, funded by our ESPC is a shining example of how public-private partnerships can create transformative energy infrastructure for the 21st Century.”
ESPCs are contracts in which private companies finance, install, and maintain new energy- and water efficient equipment at federal facilities. The government pays no up-front costs, saving taxpayer dollars, and the company's investment is repaid over time by the agency from the cost savings generated by the new equipment. This allows the government to use the private sector to purchase more energy-efficient systems and improve the energy performance of their facilities at no extra cost to the agency or taxpayers.