TIFTON -- A Duke Energy North America representative said Wednesday that a proposed power plant would not present a risk to Tiftarea residents.

Speaking at the Tifton Rotary Club's noon meeting, Duke project manager Dan Runyan said his company develops between 10 and 12 new power-generating facilities every year.

"Our energy structure is sorely lacking and there needs to be more energy produced to keep up with demand," Runyan said.

Runyan, who has worked for Duke for 2 1/2 years, manages five projects, including one proposed for Tift County. He said he "can't say we don't face opposition" but some communities welcome the new industry.

"We have actually had proponents on the projects, such as mayors and commissioners," Runyan said. "I think we are a little behind the curve (with support) in Tifton."

Runyan urged citizens to "listen to information with an open mind."

Duke has optioned to purchase 140 acres of land off Hutchinson and Whiddon Mill roads in west Tift County. If built, the plant itself will cover 16.5 acres.

He said the company chose the location mainly because of its close proximity to Georgia Power Company's substation and because it has a natural tree buffer.

"We have to have access to the transmission grid and that is the place to tie in, at the substation," Runyan said. "The reason we looked at this station is because it is so large and it can support the project."

Runyan said Duke originally considered the area of Tifton's Industrial Park, but could not obtain Federal Aviation Administration clearance.

Runyan said the facility will produce 620 megawatts of electricity per day, enough to power 620,000 homes. The facility would burn natural gas using two combination turbines and one steam turbine.

Runyan showed those in attendance how the Tift Energy facility would look from New Covenant Church on Whiddon Mill Road and from Hutchinson Road. The two tallest of three stacks, 160' each, were just visible over the tree lines.

Runyan said the plant would expand the local tax base through ad valorem and sales and use taxes.

"You are looking at anywhere from one to three million dollars in taxes Duke pays per year," Runyan said.

James Chavez, president of the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce, said the company would pay $740,000 in ad valorem taxes and approximately $2 million per year in sales taxes.

The plant would create 200-300 jobs during the 18-month construction period. When the plant is constructed, there will be 20-25 permanent positions with average annual salaries of $60,000 each.

Runyan said the company has received numerous environmental awards and is "very pro-active" in community affairs, supporting such agencies as United Way.

"We do not operate them (power plants) if they pose a health risk to our employees or residents of the community," Runyan said.

Runyan said air quality within 200 miles of the plants is regularly monitored by the EPD and EPA.

"The air permit pursued for Tift County is one of the cleanest air permits for the state," Runyan said.

Runyan said potential plant emissions of nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter fall well below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards of the EPD. Duke has applied for state permits, which have not yet been issued.

Runyan said the noise level produced by the plant would measure 50 decibels at 2,000 feet away from the turbine.

"It would be like driving down Carpenter Road at midnight and listening to the humming from the transformer," Runyan said.

The plant would need 6.5 million gallons of water per day to operate. Five million of those it plans to purchase from the City of Tifton's wastewater plant. Duke would get the additional 1.5 million it needs to operate from on-site storage ponds and possibly four wells it will dig. Runyan said Duke had talked with farmers who depend on the Little River for irrigation and agreed to use the on-site wells and storage ponds during periods of irri


A Rotarian asked if Duke had been offered any incentives from government officials to locate here. Runyan said negotiations with the city and county to reduce ad valorem taxes for 10 years are ongoing.

"We are still looking at paying in $15 to $17 million over 20 years for ad valorem taxes," Runyan said.

Chavez said that the Chamber of Commerce's Board of Directors had voted to continue "looking at the project."

"We are still investigating it just as they are investigating our community," Chavez said. "The board of directors is not yet endorsing the project."

When asked whether or not property values would decline around the power plant, Runyan said he did not have a documented study showing the impact of property value. Chavez said a researcher had been hired to study the change in property values around Duke Energy's plant in Maine.

The Tift County Commission recently voted to conduct an independent environmental impact study before it decided to give the project its stamp of approval. Last week, the Greater Tiftarea Planning and Zoning Commission voted to deny a text amendment request from Duke to allow the Heavy Industrial zoning classification it needs to progress and passed that recommendation on to the Tift County Commission.

To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.

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