A private developer has been given the green light for a multi-million dollar biomass plant that will generate electricity for thousands of homes in the Sydney area.

The complex will be built at the former Sysco site and, using gasification, will turn waste wood into electricity, generating enough power for 5,000 homes.

Unlike massive coal-burning plants built to transmit electricity long distances, biomass power is produced for local delivery.

“What you use in your home, in your own community, will be produced in your own community with jobs in your community, using resources in your community, instead of you drawing electricity from a thousand miles away,” says developer Luciani Lisi.

The $36-million plant will use fuel from local woodlots, creating 50 forestry jobs.

It will also help the provincial government to hit an aggressive target of generating 40 per cent renewable energy by the end of the decade.

“We’re focusing now on cleaner, local energy sources, both from small community ventures and larger regional projects, such as the Lower Churchill,” says Deputy Premier Frank Corbett.

The biomass plant will use more than just wood to produce energy – it will also utilize some of the municipality’s curbside garbage to generate power and other products.

Compost will be processed in the plant, where it is envisaged methane and natural gas will be produced, along with high quality fertilizers.

The plant will also divert other waste, which now goes into a landfill.

“We also have a memorandum that will deal with any construction and demolition debris that is wood based and could go in there, reducing the impact on our landfill,” says Cecil Clarke, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

More than 60 projects have already been approved for producing clean, green electricity in Nova Scotia. While most of the projects involve large turbines, biomass meets the same criteria for reducing harm to the environment.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Randy MacDonald