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Literacy program exceeds goal

The goal of LIFE—a local literacy advocacy group—was applauded at the Thursday morning Bainbridge-Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Their goal is to ensure that any member of the community who wanted to earn a high school diploma or its equivalent has the opportunity to.

Georgia Power, which sponsored the breakfast, also detailed its plans to retrofit a coal-burning plant in Albany to a wood biomass-burning plant.

Debbie McIntrye, executive director of LIFE, said Decatur County was formally recognized as a Certified Literate Community and that it received a resolution stating as such.

To become a Certified Literate Community—one of only 26 in the state—LIFE had to reach the goal it set 10 years ago, to enroll 3,706 individuals who wanted to obtain their General Equivalency Diploma (GED).

McIntrye said 40 percent—or 1,078—of those served actually earned their GED, and that their goal of helping individuals was actually exceeded by 99 persons—3,805 persons participated in the Certified Literate Community program during that time.

Billy Barber, along with former Chamber President Cile Warr and Program Administrator Kay Lynn, were some of the original backers of Decatur County starting the LIFE and Certified Literate Community Program.

Barber told Chamber members that if it wan’t for McIntrye, the program would not have had the success it had.

“We owe her some gratitude,” Barber said.

Biomass plant

Detailed plans and a narrative on Georgia Power’s retrofit of the coal-firing plant into a wood-biomass plant in Albany was given by Plant Manager John Crowell.

The plant, known as Plant Mitchell Unit 3 and located along the banks of the Flint River, would become one of the largest biomass power plants in the United States.

The biomass plant would be fueled by tree tops and limbs left after tree harvesting; timber which cannot be sold; peanut and pecan hulls; scraps, bark, sawdust and shavings; and whole tree chips.

Crowell said the plant’s fuel would require 160 truck loads of wood scraps a day, and the wood fuel could come from an area within a 100-mile radius.

He said the 100-mile radius has approximately 12 million tons of excess woody biomass, and out of that, Plant Mitchell would only need 1 million of that a year.

The plant’s net capacity would be 96 megawatts, which Georgia Power said is enough electricity to power 60,000 homes.

Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, also said the plant would have lower fuel and operating costs by using biomass instead of coal, thereby making the plant more cost-effective for customers.

Crowell said the conversion from coal to wood biomass is environmentally sound, decreasing the amount of harmful emissions such as sulfur and mercury.

Georgia Power was given approval by the Georgia Public Service Commission in 2008, and it is now awaiting approval for Plant Mitchell’s air permit from the state’s Environmental Protection Department.

If the air permit is granted, construction on the conversion will begin in April 2011, and the biomass plant would then be expected to come on line in June 2012.