Ramble On

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Reader Comments on Fibrowatt

From the comments that we’ve been collecting on all the Fibrowatt posts, I’ve been pulling some of them out as standalone posts themselves. Here are two that I received today – thanks readers, for getting involved in the topic.

From Ralph Shoemaker:

“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.”

From Jay Dedman:

“Here's the obvious questions people are asking: will a biomass incinerator produce an abundance of smoke? We live in a valley and it's not crazy to imagine a thick haze build up. We already have reduced visibility with haze from coal plants in the region.

“There's a reason why trash incinerators are not common anymore. We bury garbage for a reason.

“It would be a shame if we sacrificed the biggest treasure of Page County--the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley--for less than full-time 100 jobs.”


@me said...

Very cool ! (y

Terry Walmsley said...

In response to Mr. Shoemaker's comments ---

In regard to jobs: One of the important aspects of a Fibrowatt plant is jobs - construction jobs and permanent employment associated with fuel receipt and fuel processing, fuel procurement, electrical and instrument technicians, plant maintenance, plant operators, control room operators, and plant management. At the forum Mr. Shoemaker refers to we were asked about the job potential and I explained that the typical plant employment is between 30 - 35 people. Many of these jobs are very skilled jobs which pay well. If Mr. Shoemaker is suggesting that only a few of these jobs (entry-level jobs) can be filled by the local work force I think he is selling the labor force in Surry County North Carolina short. As we have said many times, we value qualified and skilled workers, workers that likely already exist in the region. Furthermore, these are skills that can be gained in anticipation of a plant that will likely not be up in operation for 2 years or more. At our plant in Minnesota, we have seen dedicated and hard working individuals living in Benson move up through the plant work force. As an example, one of the general contractor's security guards (that grew up in Benson), after they began working at the Fibrominn plant, has risen from the fuel receipt position to a plant operator, several grades above what they started at. We value local workers as they have the roots in the community that will lead to good job retention.

Furthermore, his reference to what was said about construction jobs is far from accurate. As I explained at the Dobson forum, the plant will be built by an engineering, procurement, and construction company and they will have responsibility for the construction labor force. Construction jobs will go to qualified and skilled trade workers that can meet the needs of the EPC contractor. These too are skills that will exist within Surry County and this region of NC. What is important is that this is likely a 24 month construction period that will employ locally and bring in labor resulting in a significant flow of money into the local economy.

As also mentioned in previous posts, there are a number of supplemental jobs associated with transportation and the manufacturing of the ash by-product fertilizer. Studies in NC indicate that for every one of the jobs at a renewable energy plant as many as 1-2 additional jobs are created or supported.

If readers are interested in the challenges experienced in Minnesota regarding plant start-up and emissions, I suggest they go to the Fibrowatt website where they will find a discussion on this issue.

Finally, feel free to investigate what the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League says but do this with caution. As we have found on several occasions, BREDL has made a number of accusations that have been riddled with wrong assumptions and misinformation. Please spend a little time on the Fibrowatt website and you will get a flavor of how BREDL has inaccurately portrayed Fibrowatt as explained in our October 5, 2009 release.

Terry Walmsley, Fibrowatt LLC

Terry Walmsley said...

In response to Jay Dedman's comments ---

To permit and construct a modern biomass power plant, it requires a very extensive permitting process that will look at potential emissions under worst-case conditions and demonstrate that even under these conditions the plant will meet very stringent environmental requirements. These plants require very extensive emission control systems that are far more protective of air quality than older existing coal plants. Furthermore, one of the important considerations with a plant in the Shenandoah Valley is the consideration that must be given to protecting visibility in this area. As part of the permuting process, a plant of this size located in the Valley would have to demonstrate that it would not adversely effect visibility in nearby "Class 1 Federal Areas" such as the Shenandoah National Park.

You are right to value the resources of the Shenandoah Valley as would we. One of the reasons a Fibrowatt project would make sense in this area is the important benefits it can offer to protecting local water resources, providing an important new source of renewable energy that could displace existing coal-fired power plants, and can support poultry growers efforts to be good environmental stewards.

Terry Walmsley - Fibrowatt LLC