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Procter & Gamble Fires Up Massive Biomass Investment

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- by Heather Clancy, March 3, 2015, Forbes 

With companies like Apple and Google regularly stealing headlines for their solar and wind investments, it’s easy to forget “renewable” energy comes in many forms.

For consumer products giant Procter & Gamble biomass continues to be highly strategic. Indeed, it’s working on one of the biggest corporate biomass plants in the United States, a 50-megawatt installation at its Bounty and Charmin manufacturing plant in Albany, Georgia.

The $200 million project, spearheaded by Exelon subsidiary Constellation, is actually a replacement for a much smaller boiler that’s been in service for more than 30 years. The new cogeneration technology will provide 100% of the steam needed to run the production line, and approximately 60-70% of the energy for the facility, said Len Sauer, P&G’s vice president of global sustainability. The previous technology contributed about 30% of the total energy needed at the site.

“This seems to be a great opportunity to take a step forward,” Sauer said.

Constellation will own and operate the facility. P&G will buy back the steam under a 20-year power purchase agreement. The electricity will officially be purchased by Georgia Power. The fuel supply will be locally sourced scrap wood such as discarded tree tops or limbs, along with crop residuals such as pecan shells or peanut hulls; P&G collaborated with the World Wildlife Fund to come up with sourcing guidelines.“We needed to make sure we are sourcing the scrap in a sustainable way. You want to make sure you’d going doing the path of using positive practices,” Sauer said.

P&G’s current corporate goal calls for it to procure 30% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2020. As of November 2014, it was at 8% of that goal. The new plant in Georgia will almost double that amount to approximately 15%, he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging biomass projects as one way to help reduce the threat of forest fires on federal land. Last year, more than 200,000 tons of scraps from deceased and dead trees were removed under its assistance program. What’s more, in late February, the agency approved another $8.7 million for research into next-generation technologies.