Pecans are part of a healthy diet, certainly, but they also play an emerging role in renewable energy production across the United States.
As reported in the Cincinnati Business Courier, steam used to run one of Procter & Gamble’s largest paper manufacturing plants in Georgia will soon be created, in part, by burning pecan shells along with other waste wood products.
Constellation, a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation, will build, own and operate the $200 million biomass cogeneration plant, which will supply steam to P&G’s Albany, Ga. paper manufacturing facility while generating electricity for Georgia Power. The biomass renewable energy plant will be one of the largest in the United States and is expected to be operational by 2017.
The combined heat-and-power biomass unit will burn organic matter to provide 100 percent of the steam and up to 70 percent of the total electricity used during the manufacturing process for P&G’s leading towel and tissue brands such as Bounty paper towels and Charmin toilet tissue.
The unit’s fuel supply will come from biomass – organic matter that otherwise might be burned by itself, sent to landfills, or left to decay. In addition to pecan shells and mill waste, the biomass fuel is expected to include discarded treetops, limbs, branches and scrap wood from nearby forestry operations.
Biomass is considered a renewable fuel, and it is carbon neutral. That’s because, during their life cycle, pecan trees and other plants convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. Traditional fossil fuels such as coal produce carbon dioxide when burned and thus increase greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, burning biomass in combined heat-and-power plants has additional benefits, including replacing fossil fuel, freeing up landfill space, and reducing tipping fees associated with waste disposal.