Bethesda, Maryland-based Enviva Inc., the world’s leading producer of sustainably sourced woody biomass, recorded a milestone with a ceremony to mark the official start of construction on a wood pellet plant in Sumter County.
Gov. Kay Ivey joined Enviva executives and community leaders at the groundbreaking event at the site in Epes, where the company is building a state-of-the-art production facility for the sustainable, renewable energy source.
“Make no mistake about it, this is a very big day for West Alabama,” Ivey said. “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.
The company produces industrial wood pellets that are used for low-carbon, renewable power generation, primarily in markets in Europe and Asia.
Enviva announced its plans for the Alabama facility in October 2019 and has been working to advance the project ever since. The company says it expects to invest $375 million, on average, in its next-generation pellet plants, including the one in Epes.
Enviva Inc. held a groundbreaking ceremony June 28 to mark the official start of construction on a wood pellet plant in Sumter County. (Hal Yeager / Governor’s Office)
In 2020, Enviva acquired more than 300 acres on the Tombigbee River in Sumter County for its planned plant. The location was once home to a wood products company’s manufacturing site, but that facility closed, triggering job losses and dealing the region an economic blow.
Enviva started preliminary construction on its Epes plant in July 2022. The plant, expected to have a capacity of 1.1 million metric tons per year, is projected to be in service in mid-2024 and reach full production in 2025.
“It is an honor to be here in Sumter County with Governor 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 said. “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.”
Enviva will produce wood pellets like these at its plant now under construction in rural Sumter County. The company is the world’s leading producer of sustainably sourced woody biomass. (contributed)
Enviva owns and operates 10 pellet plants with a combined production capacity of approximately 6.2 million metric tons per year in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi.
The Epes plant will become the company’s 11th production facility, and it’s planning a 12th near Bond, Mississippi.
U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell said Enviva’s investment project represents great news for Sumter County.
“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.”
Gov. Kay Ivey speaks at a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the official start of construction on Enviva Inc.’s wood pellet plant in Sumter County. (Hal Yeager / Governor’s Office)
Ivey said the project is “proof positive” of her administration’s commitment to rural economic development.
“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 said. “As some of you probably know, I’m a proud daughter of Alabama’s Black Belt 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,” she said.
Alabama Power was among the many public and private sector partners that supported the Enviva project.
Brenda Tuck, Rural Development manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the Enviva project will produce a strong ripple effect that spreads 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,” Tuck said.