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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Gainesville moves closer to purchasing biomass plant

The City of Gainesville is on its way to purchasing the privately owned Gainesville Renewable Energy Center, or GREC.

After months of negotiating, officials from both Gainesville Regional Utilities and GREC came to the nonbinding agreement that GRU may purchase the privately owned biomass plant, located at 11201 NW 13th St., for $750 million.

The possible acquisition could reduce electricity rates for GRU customers by 8 to 10 percent, said GRU communications specialist Lauren Munsey.

On March 22, GRU General Manager Edward Bielarski and GREC Chief Executive Officer James Gordon signed a memorandum of understanding.

The city must approve the memorandum before April 21. If it is approved, both parties will have four months to finalize the deal.

At-large City Commissioner Helen Warren said Bielarski consistently updated the commission on negotiations with GREC, and so far, she said she’s pleased with the direction of the deal.

“This is a good start,” Warren said. “I’m real happy to see us get to this point.”

Warren said she wants community members to know that the purchase is not yet final, and GRU will be conducting thorough inspections of GREC’s facilities during the four months the commission has to approve the memorandum of understanding.

“All the equipment will be tested to verify its working order and that there isn’t some part of the system that will need maintenance right away,” Warren said. “I think it’s going to be good to have those four months to make sure it’s a win-win for both GRU and GREC.”

Warren said because many people in the community have concerns about the city’s acquisition of the plant, the city will be as transparent with the negotiations as possible.

“One of the most important things for everybody to understand is that there will be a community conversation about this,” Warren said. “There will be open transparency so we can get input and people will feel comfortable with the city moving forward.”

In an effort to be more transparent, GRU launched the website whybuygrec.com, which includes a copy of the memorandum as well as facts and figures regarding the purchase, Munsey said.

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“We want to make it as transparent and understandable as we can, because it’s a lot of numbers, a lot of history,” Munsey said.

Contact Molly Vossler at mvossler@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter at @molly_vossler 

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