75-megawatt CHP plant proposed and supported in Virginia

By Lisa Gibson | June 28, 2011

A Virginia-based packaging solutions provider has proposed a biomass boiler and power infrastructure upgrade for its Covington, Va., facility. Even the governor is backing the $285 million project, a promising element for a proposal in an industry that has seen its share of public opposition recently.

MeadWestvaco Corporation (MWV) will replace two old and less efficient units at its mill with a new biomass boiler and a 75-megawatt steam turbine generator. The system is designed for feedstocks such as bark, wood residues from logging operations, and wastewater residuals from the paper-making process, according to MWV.

The biomass plant will allow the mill to become self-sufficient in electrical power and steam generation, along with significantly reducing operating and maintenance costs. MWV expects to secure all the necessary permits to begin construction in the fourth quarter of 2011. It seems like an expedited development, but having the governor on board comes with some advantages.

"MWV is a Virginia-headquartered company and has a significant presence across the commonwealth, employing more than 2,200 citizens,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va. “This tremendous investment in its Covington plant will allow the mill to become self-sufficient in energy production, while positioning the facility for profitable growth and job creation in the years ahead. Renewable energy is an increasing priority today, and MWV's new biomass boiler will use renewable resources as fuel, providing reliable, efficient and lower-cost sources to produce steam and electricity for the mill."

The plant is the world’s largest solid bleached sulfate mill, according to Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Jim Cheng, and this upgrade will only increase the mill’s output and efficiency. Covington Mayor Robert K. Bennett II also expressed support for the project on behalf of himself and the city council.

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with the city of Covington and the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corp. to secure the project for Virginia. McDonnell approved a $1 million performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Partnership program, an incentive available to existing Virginia companies. MWV has said it will take advantage of federal, state and local incentives, financing its investment through a combination of cash and borrowings. The plant is expected to be fully operational in the fourth quarter of 2013.