Vidalia may purchase fuel from USSEC

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 23, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; The contract between the city of Vidalia and U.S. Sustainable Energy Corp., a company that plans to produce bio-fuel made from soybeans, is still in the works.

USSEC recently announced the purchase of a facility in Natchez.

Friday, City Manager Kenneth Davis said representatives from USSEC, Louisiana Energy and Power Authority and city officials met at around 11 a.m. Sunday to discuss the contract concerning Vidalia possibly purchasing fuel from the company to power the city.

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&8220;We have not reached an agreement,&8221; Davis said. &8220;There&8217;s a multitude of things that have to be checked and re-checked.&8221;

The company purchased a 35-acre facility located at 110 L.E. Berry Road in Natchez several weeks ago.

CEO John Rivera said that the company would open a plant at the Natchez site that will eventually produce 1.5 million gallons of bio-fuel a day.

Friday evening, Vidalia Alderman Ricky Knapp said he was not aware of the meeting between USSEC, LEPA and city officials but that the recent purchase of the property made him feel optimistic about USSEC&8217;s financial commitment to the project.

In October, Rivera said he planned to build generators to power the city of Vidalia using the bio-fuel.

During a phone call Wednesday, LEPA&8217;s legal counsel, attorney Pat Wartelle said although he had never heard of Vidalia&8217;s involvement with USSEC, installation of a power plant would take a while.

&8220;It&8217;s not just like turning on a switch, Wartelle said. &8220;Someone&8217;s got to build a plant which costs hundreds of millions of dollars.&8221;

Davis said city officials and engineers were still checking to see if installing a power plant was physically possible, and if possible, whether power generated from the plant could be put on a grid.

Davis said the city was also discussing whether excess power produced by the plant, during the city&8217;s low-energy-usage months could possibly be sold to LEPA, Vidalia&8217;s energy provider.

In August, a press release from the Secretary of State&8217;s office showed that Vidalia had the highest utility rates in the state.

&8220;It&8217;s a proposition that could save Vidalia&8217;s electric customers money,&8221; Davis said Friday. &8220;So we&8217;re going to explore it to the max.&8221;

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland could not be reached for comment.