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In 2013, a portion of the power flowing to homes and businesses across northern Virginia will come from an unlikely source: burned wood.

To help bolster its renewable energy portfolio, Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative, or NOVEC, is building a 49.9-megawatt “green” biomass power plant near South Boston, Virginia. The $175 million project, expected to be completed in 2013, eventually will satisfy over 6 percent of the cooperative’s energy requirements—enough to meet the needs of about 16,000 residential customers.

The plant will burn “slash,” which is the wood that’s left behind after construction projects or in furniture manufacturing. In addition, the plant will be carbon neutral, meaning it will not add any more carbon dioxide to the environment beyond what’s already released through natural decomposition of the wood. Better yet, no methane gas, sulfur or mercury will be emitted by the plant.

The project is being financed largely through a $90 million loan from the USDA's Rural Utilities Service and state and federal grants, but CoBank provided an interim construction line of credit to provide liquidity.

“Being a good steward of the environment has always been a priority at NOVEC,” said company President and CEO Stan Feuerberg. “Having a strong financial partner such as CoBank, who shares our commitment to the environment, certainly helped make the project possible.”

Feuerberg added that the interim financing provided by CoBank was critical to getting the project off the ground.

“Not only is this plant meeting the needs and wants of NOVEC’s customers by providing cleaner and reliable energy, it’s a great example of corporate citizenship and the cooperative spirit,” said Candace Roper, senior vice president and manager of CoBank’s Electric Distribution Banking Division.

NOVEC was recognized by J.D. Power & Associates for ranking highest in customer satisfaction among 30 mid-size electric utilities in the South.

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