Company Eyes Landfill for Wood Chip Burning Electrical Project

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A start-up firm looking to use wood chips from leaf and limb debris to generate electricity is interested in making the county landfill at New Hope its home.

Monday night, Cy Jamison, president of Columbus Renewable Energy, shared his firm’s plans to use wood chips to fuel a $22-$26 million electricity generating facility on land at the former landfill.

The plant would produce 10 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 10,000 average homes.

“This is not a big one,” Jamison said. “It’s small.”

Jamison said the plant would have operating costs in the $2.3 to $2.6 million range and use methane gas already being collected at the plant in its process. Steam from the process could be used in greenhouses owned by the college at the site.

“We’ve been looking at this almost a year,” Jamison said, adding that there is ample waste wood available to feed the project.

An N.C. State University study showed that 1.2 million tons of such wood waste is available annually and the project proposed would take just 150,000 tons.

“It’s something positive from an economic standpoint,” Jamison said, adding that the project would not include the burning of treated wood or hazardous materials.

“This is only clean wood,” Jamison said. “This is a green project.”

Leadership was important, he said.

“You’ve got to have good people to run a project like this,” Jamison said, adding that Southeastern Community College’s programs were an attractive bonus.

“This will expand your tax base and your jobs base,” Jamison said.

The plant will offer “good paying” jobs he said. “The manager will make about $80,000 to $100,000 and there will be technicians.”

Jamison suggested the plant, which will purchase its wood product from multiple suppliers, will have added economic benefit to landowners thinning their forestland, transporters and suppliers.

“It will create spin-off jobs in the wood industry within a 50-mile radius,” Jamison said.

He added the plant could accept leaf and limb from local towns, saving landfill space and reducing costs to customers.

The project hinges on securing an agreement with a utility company, such as Duke Energy, and private financing.

Jamison, who resides in Montana, is a former Director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for the U.S. Department of the Interior under the Bush Administration from 1989 to 1993.

His interest in a project at the landfill came via another business connection he has to Columbus County via the Boys and Girls Home of Lake Waccamaw.

The Lake Waccamaw non-profit is a client of Ken Woosley and Associates, a professional firm that provides public relations and federal government relations counseling to a variety of organizations throughout the nation.

Boys and Girls Home President Gary Faircloth said through that connection he met Jamison. Faircloth subsequently introduced Jamison to Gary Lanier, county economic developer.

“He has always proven to be one of the finest men I have met,” Faircloth said. “As a non profit your greatest asset is your image,” Faircloth said, adding that the non-profit chooses its associations carefully.

Faircloth sees the new venture as a “win-win” for the county and Boys and Girls Homes, who Jamison has pledged to support.

The presentation was met with a cautious openness Monday night.

“I don’t think we need to make the mistake we made before,” County Commissioner James Prevatte said, alluding to a trash-to-diesel plant that never came to fruition at the county landfill.

Commissioners gave Lanier their blessing in continuing to work with Columbus Renewable Energy and seek more information.

Under the proposal the county would have no investment in the project but receive royalties on the sale of electricity.

The county via a Golden Leaf grant and other sources is working to capture methane gas created by decomposing waste at the closed landfill.

It wills be converted to electricity and generate some revenue for the county.

Lanier said the project proposed is more worthwhile because it would create jobs.

Jamison told commissioners he was impressed with the warm welcome he received from county staff, Lanier and Public Works Director Kip McClary.

Jamison said most places give you many reasons “why you can’t do something. It is refreshing to see somebody who wants to do something.”

 

By NICOLE CARTRETTE, Staff Writer, The News Reporter