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Converting Wood Waste into Energy

Wood energy pellets are easy to handle have high energy value, and are inexpensive to transport.

Beasley Forest Products turned a waste byproduct of its hardwood sawmills into an asset, and now finds itself at the forefront of the biomass renewable energy industry in Georgia. Beasley has three hardwood sawmills in Georgia, including the largest one in the United States. “We produce a lot of hardwood sawdust and a lot of bark,” says Darrell Beasley, “and those two items have been difficult to market.”

In 2007 Beasley partnered with Fram Renewable Fuels to build a mill that converts sawdust and bark into 200,000 metric tons of pellets per year. A second mill added another 150,000 metric tons of capacity, and a third will increase total capacity to 900,000 metric tons. The pellets are shipped out through the Brunswick Port to power plants in Europe.

Beasley generates additional material, such as chipped limbs from logging operations and additional bark from its sawmill and chip mill, and in 2011 partnered with other companies to develop a 34-megawatt biomass fueled power plant near Dublin Georgia. Opening in 2015, the plant will use up to 600,000 tons annually of wood bark, chips and other biomass from the local area. The new venture has a twenty-year power purchase agreement with Georgia Power.

Refusing to waste anything, Darrell Beasley says the steam exiting the turbines will be used in an adjacent paper mill to dry the paper.

The Beasley family has been in the timber industry since Darrell’s father, Rabun, founded Beasley Timber Company in 1969. The company and their thirty contract loggers use Cat loaders, skidders, feller bunchers, and other equipment in the woods. Cat wheel loaders feed the biomass in the energy conversion process.

The state of Georgia is a becoming leader in the use of biomass as an energy source. Forbes magazine ranked Georgia third in the nation for potential biomass energy as measured by the amount of biomass available in the state. In addition, Georgia ranks No. 1 in the nation for commercial timberland and boasts 10 million acres of agricultural land.

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