Local, Sustainable Fuel

GREC is fueled by local and clean wood waste. This wood fuel includes residues (such as treetops and branches) from existing forestry operations, unmerchantable timber, and materials from urban tree trimming operations. We do NOT accept any wood from construction or demolition waste.

Rather than importing more fossil fuels, GREC’s wood fuel is local and is harvested within a 75 mile radius of our facility in north central Florida, providing a valuable revenue stream to landowners, loggers, truckers and foresters in the region.

Before our facility began taking wood deliveries, much of this forestry waste wood was open burned, releasing smoke, ash, and soot into the air that our facility does not. Now, instead of being burned in the open or left on the forest floor to decompose, this material is being used to create renewable energy.

Healthier Forests

GREC needs healthy forests to operate, and we foster sustainable forestry.

We will not accept wood harvested from the conversion of a natural forest to a plantation forest.
GREC provides economic incentives to foresters and landowners to remove dead wood and small undergrowth, reducing the threat of wildfires that endanger lives and property and contribute to air pollution. Thinning, maintaining and replanting trees also promotes long-term forest health.

GREC is complying with the Florida Division of Forestry Best Management Practices and has agreed to additional standards with GRU to foster improved nutrient retention and overall forest health.  Read GREC’s Sustainability Policy

Energy Diversity

Florida is presently at risk of becoming over-reliant upon natural gas which is providing 65% of electric generation supplied by two natural gas pipelines coming into Florida. Diversifying the energy mix with ‘home grown’ renewable energy sources like biomass provides a hedge against the price volatility and supply risks of depending upon two pipelines for so much of Florida’s energy supply.

Biomass: part of the right energy mix to mitigate climate change

Fossil fuel power plants take carbon-rich fuel buried in the ground, burn it, and release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air, a greenhouse trapping gas. In contrast, Biomass fuels “recycle” atmospheric carbon, minimizing global warming impacts since zero “net” carbon dioxide is emitted during biomass combustion — the amount of carbon dioxide emitted is equal to the amount absorbed from the atmosphere during the biomass growth phase.

In the absence of a biomass facility, a large portion of the biomass energy would be left to decompose naturally, be open-burned or landfilled. This would release carbon in the form of carbon dioxide, and also potentially methane, which is between 20 and 25 times more potent as a greenhouse-gas than carbon dioxide.

The European Union treats biomass as ‘carbon neutral.’ The European nations doing the most to mitigate climate change are utilizing biomass power plants in addition to wind and solar as a critical component of their clean energy future. In doing so, they are reducing greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring biomass provides the baseload power they need to provide electric grid reliability, since wind and solar energy resources are variable based on the weather.

One of the leading climate scientists in the United States, James Hansen at Columbia University (formally at NASA) had this to say about GREC’s role in mitigating climate change:

“Well planned sustainable biomass power plants are a viable source of clean renewable electricity, and this is helpful for the task of phasing out coal-fired power plants. Knee-jerk opposition to all biomass projects has no sound scientific basis and is harmful to attempts to stabilize climate for the sake of our children, grandchildren, and future generations. In my opinion, the proposed waste and residue-powered 100 MW Gainesville Renewable Energy Center deserves support and is a useful step toward the essential task of phasing out coal emissions.”

Biomass 101

Biomass energy is a renewable energy source since the energy contained in the organic materials comes from the sun. Through the process of photosynthesis, chlorophyll in plants captures the sun’s energy by converting carbon dioxide from the air and water from the ground into carbohydrates, complex compounds composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. When these carbohydrates are burned, they turn back into carbon dioxide and water and release the sun’s energy they contain.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that electricity generated from coal produces about 50 times more SO2 emissions than biomass fuels and significantly more NO2 emissions.

Annual Third Party Forestry Audit

Gainesville Renewable Energy Center is required to have a third party forestry audit annually. The city of Gainesville requires forestry standards for the sites where GREC receives its wood waste fuel. Gainesville Renewable Energy Center was found to be in full compliance. The Forestry Audit can be viewed here: April Audit Report