Southern Power, the Southern Co. subsidiary that acquires, builds, manages and owns wholesale-generation assets, took a major step in building one of the nation’s largest biomass-fueled projects with a groundbreaking ceremony in Sacul, Texas.

Southern Power acquired the 100-megawatt project—the Nacogdoches Generating Facility—from American Renewables LLC on Oct. 9, 2009, noting at the time that it would move ahead with construction and bring the plant online in the summer of 2012. The plant’s output is committed to Austin Energy in a 20-year agreement that will help the city of Austin, Texas, meet a 30-percent renewable-energy goal.

Total cost of the project will be between $475 million and $500 million. The plant, which will be built on 165 acres, will be fueled with biomass materials, including forest residue from the surrounding areas, wood processing residues and clean municipal wood waste. The project will require approximately 1 million tons of fuel annually, which is planned to be procured within a 75-mile radius of the project site.

The Nacogdoches plant is one of two Southern Co. biomass projects. The Georgia Public Service Commission in March approved Georgia Power’s application to convert its 96 megawatt Plant Mitchell near Albany, Ga., to biomass. Georgia Power is the Atlanta-based Southern Co. subsidiary serving 2.25 million customers in 155 of Georgia’s 159 counties.

Southern Co. is evaluating the feasibility of converting five additional coal plants to biomass as well.

Construction of the Nacogdoches facility will take about 32 months and will generate about 300 construction jobs. Approximately 40 permanent jobs will be created to operate the plant.