By Bianca Capazorio Business Correspondent (The Herald online http://www.theherald.co.za)

THE town of George is to house a R130-million bio-energy project using wood waste as a fuel source.

The Central Energy Fund (Pty) Ltd will be partnering with BEE partner Carbon and Environment Options to create a special purpose vehicle company called CCE Energy Solutions, which will develop and operate the plant at George.

The plant will produce around eight megawatts of electricity using a minimum of 50 000 tons of wood waste available to the project.

Construction at the plant is set to start in July, and around 200 skilled and unskilled jobs will be created during the construction phase.

Commissioning of the plant is scheduled for June 2008.

Income will be generated through the sale of electricity to local municipalities and other parties, as well as from the derived certified emissions reductions.

“This project offers exciting opportunities,” said CEF group CEO Mputumi Damane.

“It will use existing technology to produce electricity from a renewable energy source. It will create employment, encourage public-private partnerships, and it is indeed a clean development mechanism initiative.”

Biomass is plant material, vegetation or agricultural waste used as a clean energy source and has been earmarked as a significant contributor to the government‘s renewable energy target of 10 000 gigawatt-hours (GW.h).

Projections for the George project indicate that by 2013 it will have contributed 350 GW.h of clean energy towards the target.

Damane said the technology being used was already in use in South Africa and was safe.

The project will use technology called fluidised bed combustion, which uses a heated bed of sand-like material which is suspended within a rising column of air. The wood waste is then added and the scrubbing action of the bed material enhances the combustion process by stripping away the carbon dioxide and char layers that normally form around the fuel particles. This allows oxygen to reach the combustible material much more readily and increases the rate and efficiency of the combustion process.

The technology can also be moved should there be any decline in the amount of feedstock available in George.

“If at any stage there is, for some reason a decline in feedstock, then some or all of the modular fluidised bed combustion system could be moved anywhere in the country where biomass or suitable waste feedstock is available,” Damane said.