Meeting Gainesville's long-term energy needs
GRU buys power from a 102.5-megawatt biomass facility called the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC). Biomass is a renewable fuel source*. The plant, located on GRU's Deerhaven Generating Station property, should help meet Gainesville's energy needs for at least the next three decades.
GREC is fueled by a plentiful, local supply of leftover clean wood waste generated by forestry for paper pulp, chip and saw timber, and urban wood waste. GRU does not own or operate the plant, but purchases and owns 100 percent of the energy produced.
Construction on GREC began in 2011, and the facility began commercial operations in December 2013.
Benefits of Biomass
Approximately 30 percent of GRU's energy now comes from the GREC biomass plant, which adds an additional resource to our fuel mix. This helps protect customers from rising costs in any one fuel type and decreases our dependence on fossil fuels. Bond-rating agencies agree that adding new generation, more fuel sources and a substantial investment in renewable energy is important for GRU's financial strength and for keeping prices stable for customers.
A large portion of Gainesville's energy supply is produced at GRU's Deerhaven and John R. Kelly generating stations. These plants, though well-maintained, are aging. Similar to older-model cars, maintenance costs and the risk of a breakdown can increase as units age. The biomass plant helps ensure that the community is prepared as older generation units are retired. It also protects GRU from having to purchase high-cost replacement power over the grid should an unplanned outage occur.
Air Quality and Carbon Regulation
The majority of wood waste used to generate electricity at the biomass plant would otherwise be burned openly in fields with no air quality controls, dumped in landfills or left to decompose in the field. Decomposing wood waste releases both carbon dioxide and methane into the air, which is at least 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide alone. GREC uses state-of-the-art technology to produce energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions as compared with other wood waste disposal methods.
The Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that biomass from sustainably managed, forest-derived resources contributes no net carbon to the atmosphere, making it a carbon-neutral fuel source. This puts GRU in a good position for potential carbon regulation and helps the City continue to meet its carbon-reduction goals.
Responsible Forestry Management Practices
Fuel suppliers for the biomass plant follow strict standards to protect the forests. GRU and GREC developed the first forest stewardship incentive program in the nation to encourage suppliers to perform above the minimum standards. This promotes better forestry practices and helps protect crucial wildlife habitats. It also provides an outlet for wood waste, which reduces the risk of wildfires and the impact of invasive species.
In October 2014, GREC became the first power generation facility in the country to receive chain-of-custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC certification is considered the gold standard for responsible forestry practices in the forest products industry.
Documents and Resources
Visit GRU's Future Power Needs page for the following documents and presentations related to biomass-fueled generation:
- GREC Invoices/Billing
- Regional Utilities Committee Generation Planning Update (10/10/2011)
- Power Purchase Agreement & Equitable Adjustment for Change of Law (unredacted) and Appendix VI - GREC Operating Procedures & Exhibits
- Nacogdoches RFP Response, Appendices 1A-15H, and Addenda 1-5
- Other Archived Documents and Presentations
For additional information, visit the GREC website.
* GRU sells Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to third parties to help offset costs associated with renewable energy technology. GRU can stop selling these RECs at any time if it is in the best interest of our customers.