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New Plant for Sustainable Wood Pellets Begins Construction in Sumter County, Ala.

Thu July 13, 2023 - Southeast Edition
Made in Alabama


Gov. Kay Ivey joined Enviva executives and local community leaders at the groundbreaking event in the small Alabama community of Epes, where the Bethesda, Md.-based company is building a modern production facility for the sustainable, renewable energy source. (Enviva photo)
Gov. Kay Ivey joined Enviva executives and local community leaders at the groundbreaking event in the small Alabama community of Epes, where the Bethesda, Md.-based company is building a modern production facility for the sustainable, renewable energy source. (Enviva photo)

Enviva Inc., a leading producer of sustainably sourced woody biomass, recorded a milestone in late June with a ceremony to mark the official start of construction on a wood pellet plant in Sumter County, Ala.

Gov. Kay Ivey joined Enviva executives and local community leaders at the groundbreaking event in the small Alabama community of Epes, where the Bethesda, Md.-based company is building a modern production facility for the sustainable, renewable energy source.

"Make no mistake about it, this is a very big day for West Alabama," Ivey told the audience. "Enviva's commitment here at the Port of Epes will breathe new life into this community and region as a whole."

Once operational, Enviva's Alabama plant is expected to support approximately 350 direct and indirect jobs, including positions in industries such as logging and trucking, noted Made in Alabama, the online site for the state's Department of Commerce.

The company produces industrial wood pellets used for low-carbon, renewable power generation, primarily in European and Asian markets. Enviva announced its plans for the Alabama facility in October 2019 and has been working to advance the project ever since. The company said it expects to invest $375 million, on average, in its next-generation pellet plants, including the one in Epes, southwest of Tuscaloosa.

Will a ‘Rebirth' Be Triggered in Region?

In 2020, Enviva acquired more than 300 acres of land on the Tombigbee River in Sumter County for its planned facility. The location was once home to a factory for wood products, but that plant closed, causing job losses, and dealing the region an economic blow.

Enviva began preliminary construction on its Epes plant in July 2022. Expected to have a capacity of 1.1 million metric tons per year, the facility is projected to be in service by mid-2024 and reach full production in 2025.

"It is an honor to be here in Sumter County with Gov. Ivey and local officials to celebrate this momentous occasion of breaking ground on a fully contracted, state-of-the-art wood pellet production facility in west Alabama," said Thomas Meth, president and CEO of Enviva.

"We are excited to grow with Alabama as we remain committed to being a long-term source of green jobs and green investment across the state," he added. "We have been humbled by the strong support we have received from the local community over the last few years, and we look forward to formally being a part of the community and to being a good neighbor for many years to come."

Alabama Power is among the many public and private sector partners that supported the new project in Sumter County.

Enviva owns and operates 10 pellet plants in the Southeast with a combined production capacity of approximately 6.2 million metric tons per year. Those facilities are located in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi.

The Epes plant will become the company's 11th production facility, and it is planning another near Bond, Miss.

Example of State's Commitment to Rural Development

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-7th District, described Enviva's investment project as one that is great news for Sumter County, according to Made in Alabama.

"It is imperative for the prosperity of Alabama that we continue to deliver more resources and opportunities directly to the people that need them most," she said. "I am thrilled to see Enviva is doing just that by providing even more jobs to our rural communities through this expansion."

Ivey added that the project is "proof positive" of her administration's unwavering commitment to rural economic development in the state.

"I'm proud that Alabama is continuing to invest in our small towns and make our state the best place to work, live, and raise a family," she noted. "As some of you probably know, I'm a proud daughter of Alabama's Blackbelt and was born and raised just two counties over in Camden. So, believe me when I say that projects like this are truly close to my heart. Getting them done and providing for the people of west Alabama is personal to me."

Brenda Tuck, rural development manager of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the Enviva project will produce a strong ripple effect that will spread throughout the economy of rural Sumter County.

"Thanks to its significant investment, Enviva's project will create quality jobs for west Alabama's citizens while also improving timber markets for local landowners and enhancing economic activity for the entire region," she added.




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