Ramble On

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fibrowatt's Minnesota Project

Before I start my post today, I wanted to say thanks for the emails, FB messages, and comments in response to my posts. There are a range of insights being shared, on the economics and feasibility sides of the discussion, on the environmental side of the question, etc., and as you’d expect based on the Project Clover experience, there is a bit of frustration with how the Page County EDA communicates with its concerned stakeholders. I’ll get some of this matter assembled into posts and put them up over the next few days – but please, keep them coming!

Fibrominn – the Minnesota plant

This plant was established after the three UK plants were up and running, and had been sold. HRE sought to export the technology to the US and formed Fibrowatt for that purpose. Once the plant was built and running, Fibrominn was the firm that took over operation.

Some highlights from the Fibrominn site:

  • First poultry litter-fueled power plant in the U.S.
  • Began operating in mid-2007
  • Located on a 77-acre site on the south side of Highway 12, two miles west of Benson in west central Minnesota (HC note: current Google Earth imagery does not show the plant)
  • Uses more than 500,000 tons of poultry litter annually, as well as other biomass
  • Majority of the fuel is litter supplied by Minnesota turkey growers
  • 55-megawatt power plant that produces enough electricity to serve approximately 40,000 homes
  • Electricity is sold to Xcel Energy
  • Created 100 full-time jobs – 30 on site, 60 in litter transportation, and 10 at the ash fertlizer plant
  • Provided several hundred construction-related jobs over a two-and-a-half year period
  • Will spend millions of dollars on local purchases annually
A couple of points from the above - first, a clarification about the 100 jobs impact. As one of the comments notes, not all 100 jobs are at the plant. When I talked with Fibrowatt earlier in the week, they were very clear about the nature of the jobs too. In these counts, I see 40 new jobs, because the transportation jobs are probably already out there - they'd just be associated with the plant after it comes on line. Still, 40 "green energy" jobs, coming to a county that had an 18 percent unemployment rate last year...

One other thought - from what I am reading, planning for this plant began as early as 2001, and as noted above, construction didn't begin until 2004 or 2005. So there is about three years minimum before any economic impact would be noticed, and another three years or so before the plant is up and running and the rest of the community economic impact begins.

I’ve mentioned the outreach process that Fibrowatt emphasizes. The Minnesota community, Benson, formed a Citizens Advisory Panel in 2001 to discuss and resolve issues related to truck traffic, odor, facility layout, and air emissions. Reading the CAP minutes is a goal of mine during this series – just haven’t gotten to it yet.

There is a grand opening ceremony video on the Fibrominn website, and photo galleries of the plant and loading bays scattered around there too:



jerry said...

testing first

jerry said...

Hold the presses! I was just informed of the Fibrowatt LLC dealings with the State of VA and Page County. I have some great news for Del.Todd Gilbert and the state taxpayers of VA, but maybe not so great for the unemployed in Page County or for the sales team of Fibrowatt LLC. There is a more economical way to solve the problem while creating a minimal impact on the environment, and it will provide a commodity from the waste material that pays for the process. Unfortunately, hundreds of workers to build multi-million dollar facilities will not be needed. While it is possible that it could provide a significant number of local jobs, they would not initially be on the scale of what is presently being proposed, but quite possibly could exceed their estimates accounting for future growth. However, it does accomplish the major objective of being environmentally green and this process can successfully dispose of poultry, livestock, and pig wastes at a fraction of the cost. Minimal land is required, minimal trucking is required, no harmful gasses are emitted and no ash is remaining to dispose of, and the farmers of Page County are going to be happier than the proverbial pigs in sh--.
Has anyone guessed yet? It's called "Earthworm Biotechnology for the Management of Effluents from Intensively Housed Livestock". (Outlook on Agriculture, Volume 18, No.2,1989 0030-7270/89 Pergamon Press)
Simply stated: several species of earthworms are used, including the most commonly known as "red worms" used extensively for back yard composting. A large scale project utilizing this method exclusively for handling cattle manure and producing a nutrient rich marketable compost product that is in compliance with all USEPA land application regulations is presently being done in Avon N.Y. and was awarded a federal grant to start this immensely successful operation. The overall benefits are numerous and it is a revolutionary approach that could rival the initial introduction of solar power and wind power in terms of its benefits to the overall economic and environmental climate of the future.

I will be contacting Del. Gilbert to schedule a time where I can make a presentation that more fully describes this alternative solution and how it will be more benefit to the taxpayer, the poultry owners, the community, and the local environment. I am the son-in-law of Dr. Roy Hartenstein, the author of numerous scientific papers, including that which is noted above.

My proposal will incorporate a solution that incorporates not only poultry litter, but addresses the county’s overall waste problems not only for the present, but more importantly in the future.

Jerry Scholder

jerry said...

I can be e-mailed at jerryscholder@hotmail.com or jerryscholder@gmail.com

Té la mà Maria - Reus said...

very good blog, congratulations
regard from Reus Catalonia
thank you

Shenandoah bed and breakfast said...

The primary North Carolina project will produce fifty five megawatts of extended electricity, enough power annually to supply over forty thousand homes. In addition to poultry litter, the plant will have the design elasticity to merge wood and other biomass with poultry litter, thus dropping dependence on a single fuel type.

Best Regards,

Jim said...

Jerry, good for you on the worm technology. I remember a movie in the 70's called "Heroes" where one of the plot elements was for the protagonist (played by Henry Winkler, opposite Sally Field!) was to move out west to state a farm using this technology. I've followed it ever since. It certainly has a role in sustainability. Good luck with your proposition.

Jim said...

Thanks Te La and Shenandoah B&B!

I have some material on the prospect of using other fuel types for this kind of power generation. That will be in an upcoming post...I have a little bit of a backlog on this topic at the moment!

Terry Walmsley said...


Hope you don't mind on the clarifications but a few points to add.

I don't agree with you on the transportation jobs. While these may be taken by existing truckers, this is new work (i.e. new jobs) because litter generally is moved from barn to field by the grower or the local farmer. Haulers for Fibrowatt are new opportunities that did not previously exist as we will source our litter from a larger geographic area than from local barn-to-farm.

In Benson Minnesota the new hauling business was so important that a large regional transportation company that serves the plant actually moved their operation from down-state Minnesota to Benson. This new $million+ facility serves as the hub for 75 trucking jobs. This facility also has increased the local labor force as it includes their operations and maintenance facilities. Importantly, only a portion of these trucking jobs are related to the Fibrominn agreement. As a result of the Benson plant, this new employment center brought many more jobs to the area than just the Fibrominn related jobs.

Also, it is probably not appropriate to use the Minnesota plant as the expected timeline for future projects. Since this was the first US project, it required far more time to permit, finance, and complete construction of the project.

Terry Walmsley
Fibrowatt LLC

Ralph Shoemaker said...

When Mr Walmsley appeared at the Commission meeting in the high school gym in Dobson, N.C. he was asked about jobs that might be made available with the building of a plant being considered in Elkin, N.C. His responce when pinned down to facts and not broad statements was that the would be 10 to 12 entry level jobs available at the plant site. When questioned about the construction jobs being mentioned he admitted that those would be imported from a firm out of state. The man has to be pinned down to get a truthful answer. I bet he has not mentioned the fact that the plant in Benson, Minn has been charged with violations of the pollution standards established by the company to obtain a permit and was fined by the Attorney Generals Office for the state of Minn. for these violations. The thing any community must be concerned with in dealing with Fibrowatt LLC in air and water pollution the plant will bring. A recent study by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) shows the burning of chicken manure to be dirtier than burning coal. Please be sure to consider all aspects before buying into a health problem for your citizens.

Jim said...

Ralph, thanks for your comment today - I pulled it out with another and made a second post for the day with them. Best, Jim