Biomass plant developers seek time to study other DeKalb locations

A company that has proposed building a biomass production plant in an industrial section of Brookhaven plans to ask the DeKalb County Commission Tuesday for additional time to study other sites.

Southeast Renewable Energy of Roswell has been seeking rezoning to heavy industrial use from industrial use of the proposed location at 1800 Briarwood.

But the project has met with some neighborhood opposition, said Raine Cotton, biomass energy developer for the firm.

Southeast wants to build a $23 million plant with 15 employees that would convert trees into electricity which, the company said, could power an average of about 6,000 homes on a continuous basis.

Southeast said it is negotiating to sell that power to a Georgia utility, which it would not identify.

The rezoning has already been rejected at the committee level, prompting Southeast to seek a deferral that could give it about three months to examine alternate sites.

The company has not given up on the Brookhaven site, however, Cotton said, and does not know whether there are other suitable locations in the county. The facility must be located close to transmission lines, he said.

The top concern of area residents is smoke, but Cotton said that won't be a problem because EPA regulations would shut the plant down if it emitted smoke.

He said Southeast is spending $3 million on pollution control equipment.

The plant would use wood residue ground into a mulch-like material that is taken from sources such as right-of-way clearings and tree surgeons. Cotton said some such materials, which are especially plentiful in metro Atlanta, otherwise are dumped into landfills.

While alternative fuels are a growing part of the discussion over future energy needs in Georgia and the U.S., the industry has had a hard time getting a foothold. Cotton said there is no biomass production facility currently operating in the state.