OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Cleaner air and a support for local business? It's now all in Oak Ridge.
It's part of a major upgrade to the national lab plant.
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory is burning a new fuel, after tearing down the original steam plant.
Jeff Smith, Deputy Director of Operations at ORNL, said, "It was an old, dirty, not very inviting place and not very efficient."
Those are all issues Smith wanted to fix with a new state of the art facility. "Now, we're burning wood chips, and the wood chips provide us a renewable energy source and allows us to reduce our overall operating cost, reduce our greenhouse gases," he said.
Ian Campbell works with Johnson Controls, and he explained, "Biomass gasification technology is a relatively new technology. I mean theres been a lot of innovation in the clean energy space."
The new plant cost about $94-million. Campbell and Johnson Controls helped ORNL determine they would more than make up for the cost with savings. "The contract is for a performance period of 25 years, and it will be just over $200-million of savings over that period," Campbell explained.
"When you add up all the energy savings activities, it's about $8-million a year that we'll save," Smith said.
The new plant also supports local businesses. Campbell said, "That's one of the beauties of biomass as a technology, is the fuel supply is local," because he said, "All of the wood supplies come within a 50-mile radius."
They're not only increasing their bottom line, it will also reduce the lab's fossil fuel usage by 80-percent, making the air you breathe much cleaner.
Smith said they feel the new plant also helps advance the overall goal, less dependence on foreign oil.