Construction for renewable energy plant in Woodville underway

WOODVILLE, TX (KTRE) - It is official. Elected officials have launched construction for the latest renewable energy plant in East Texas. With the Tuesday groundbreaking in Woodville comes the promise of an alternative 'clean energy' producer predicted to contribute an estimated $25 million in economic benefits.

"For more than a century Texas has been a global leader in energy and we must continue that tradition," said Todd Staples, Agriculture Commissioner. "The Woodville Renewable Power Project is a great example of industry and agriculture coming together to create jobs and renewable energy. East Texas Electric Cooperative's actions reflect the innovative and creative spirit that will continue to make East Texas a dynamic economic force."

The wood fueled biomass plant is expected to be a boon to the local economy. In addition to the economic impact, the plant will provide 250 construction and 25 full-time jobs. The plant is located off Spring Valley Road (Co. Rd. 1020) in Tyler County, about 50 miles southeast of Lufkin.

With a steadily growing population in Texas, electric coop officials are working to ensure they meet the demands for a constant power supply. Officials believe spending millions of dollars to build a new biomass plant in Woodville will benefit and strengthen the local economy.

"Anytime that we can create jobs in an economic environment, like we have now, we're excited about it," said Mayor Ben Bythewood of Woodville.

Mayor Bythewood is one of the dozens of officials who came out in support of Tuesday's Woodville Renewable Power Plant groundbreaking. The East Texas Electric Cooperative is designing the 49-megawatt plant to use wood to power to about 35-thousand homes.

"We're forestry based and have been for hundreds of years. And so, we're able to utilize that forestry based industry to support this particular project," said Bythewood.

ETEC officials anticipate opening the new multi-million dollar plant by the end of 2014.

Bythewood says the plant will bring in 25-million dollars to the local economy while creating 250 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs. Other biomass plants, like the one in Lufkin, have promised similar economic benefits, but at times have been forced to temporarily shut down, due to low energy prices. This plant, however, is promised to be different.

"We have contracts with our district coops to take this power. So, we'll be running, hopefully, year round," said ETEC General Manager, Edd Hargett.

A well is already on site, digging to provide adequate water for the plant during construction and operation.

"With the projected population growth, we have to have power to run our businesses, to run our homes. The fact that East Texas Electric Coop members are looking toward the future and making this kind of an investment says that we are going to be able to accommodate that. And, that Texas can continue to be a leader in job growth," said Commissioner Todd Staples of the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Officials say the plant will provide power to at least four other nearby electric coops, and the plant will be fully regulated, inspected, and licensed to assure that it will be operated safely. Very little debris may be produced from the plant, and it is promised not to pollute the air.

Copyright 2012 KTRE. All Rights Reserved.