An Alabama-based company will invest $50 million to build a new wood waste-burning renewable energy plant in Dorchester County near Harleyville, state and county officials announced Thursday.

Southeast Renewable Energy announced last September it would build the facility in 2012 in Dorchester County that will generate 20 jobs over the next five years, but the company had not decided on a location.

A spokesman for Gov. Nikki Haley said the new plant will be north of Harleyville near the juncture of Interstate 26 and S.C. Highway 453.

The 15-megawatt biomass energy plant will use virgin wood residues such as tree limbs and right-of-way clearings as part of its fuel source.

Company president and chief executive officer Raine Cotton called it a "win-win opportunity. Utilizing the county's wood residue is not only sustainable, but it will also save them money and create local jobs."

Southeast Renewable Energy plans to build three 15-megawatt plants around the state, and state-owned electric and water utility Santee Cooper will buy the power over the next 30 years.

The other plants will be built in Kershaw and Allendale counties, also by of the end 2012.

The new plants are expected to create many indirect jobs in the logging, trucking and forest product industries.

"This administration is focused on attracting investment and bringing good jobs to every part of our state," Haley said. "We couldn't be happier that Southeast Renewable Energy has chosen to invest and create good jobs in Dorchester County."

State Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said the state's business-friendly climate continues to attract new jobs for South Carolina.

"This investment by Southeast Renewable Energy will further strengthen South Carolina's growing reputation in the area of renewable energy," Hitt said.

The agreement with the county to use its virgin wood residue for fuel is expected to save Dorchester County about $300,000 each year.

"Their investment is yet another in the Charleston region that is making the area a global leader in green energy," Dorchester County Council Chairman Larry Hargett said. "Not only is SRE creating jobs and investing in Dorchester County, but our partnership will save the county money as well."

The company, which started in the ethanol business in 2000 but switched to biomass fuels three years ago, will begin requesting applications for the positions in early 2012.

Read more in tomorrow's editions of The Post and Courier.