Ramble On

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pausing and Reflecting

While we haven't received our PN&C yet this week, I understand there is an article about the Fibrowatt prospect there. It's early in the process and there may not be a lot of information in the article - we won't receive ours until tonight at the earliest and more likely tomorrow (if the mail comes at all, given the current forecast for a 20-inch snowfall!).

I need to take a moment here and lay out what I have in mind for the next few posts on this topic. We've already taken a look at who the company is, a summary of a conversation I had with them, how they generate electricity, and some information about the plant they started in Minnesota. This has been a great topic so far, especially since my normal topics about cabin projects and our Shenandoah Valley world class recreation resources aren't available to me in this harsher than average winter!

In addition to the blog posts, I have five different threads going on Facebook (thanks, alert readers!) - these are exchanges of information with local stakeholders or folks with a general interest in the topic, all of whom are interested and engaged in the prospect. There is a general sense we'd like to know more about this prospect and potential community impacts - economic ones certainly but environmental ones as well.

On my checklist of topics, here are the posts I definitely plan to make in the next few days, although they may not roll out in this order:

  • A look at the three North Carolina Fibrowatt projects that are currently in development
  • A closer look at biomass power generation, using Fibrowatt's method as an example
  • Alternative processes for poultry litter as a fuel source
  • The community engagement process at the Minnesota plant
  • A review of a large quantity of material that has been generated on the environmental impacts and concerns of the community, which seems to be emerging during the North Carolina process

Right now I see the prospect (and I emphasize prospect because it is not a done deal...it's an exciting prospect for the community to consider, and it has to make economic sense to Fibrowatt) as a balance between environmental concerns and the introduction of a new business with an industrial process coming to town. Here are a couple of examples of how I've been thinking about this question, and I welcome other thoughts on the matter via comments or emails.

We hear that chicken litter has a negative impact on the Chesapeake Bay, which is connected to Luray via the Potomac River and then the Shenandoah River as you go upstream. What's the impact of current disposal processes and will this plant contribute to reducing that? (These answers are probably contained in the environmental materials I am going to look at.)

What kinds of incentives have been needed to land the plant deals in Minnesota and North Carolina? What did the communities have to give up in exchange for that, and are the jobs and new commerce worth the costs?

I'll close with a note of thanks to one of my Facebook readers, Marty, for finding the permitting application in Minnesota (www.eqb.state.mn.us/pdf/2001/FibrominnExempAp.pdf ) - the rendering accompanying this post came from there.

I'll get started on those posts ASAP!

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