Ramble On

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Another One Down for Fibrowatt

Photo of the existing Fibrowatt plant in Minnesota.
Note the stack height - 300 feet!

One of the folks I worked with back in 2010, when Fibrowatt was considering a potential Page County site, is Jay Dedman.  Jay recently sent me a link to an article that reports that Fibrowatt has bailed on a second project out of the three they had planned in North Carolina – see the link at the end of this post for the full article.

Eventually, during a meeting with the County Supervisors that was also attended by nearly 200 Page County citizens, Fibrowatt was turned away here.  I’ve documented some of the process here on the blog under the Fibrowatt label, but there are other sources that are easy to find with a Google search as well, including some very good videos from the County Supervisors speaking on the topic.

The early research showed that there were three projects slated for North Carolina, in Surry, Sampson, and Montgomery Counties.  In one of them, Surry County, there was intense local opposition to the plant, and the plan to locate one there was soon cancelled.  

Our Page County group benefited from some of that previous work, which had documented the potential health and economic effects from the Fibrowatt process, which involves burning (actually, incineration) the litter from poultry operations in order to produce electricity.

This latest cancellation is for the Montgomery County plant.  Among the reasons, according to the article here, is how costly it is to produce power this way.  This expense has made it difficult for Fibrowatt to complete a contract to sell the power, as the power companies in North Carolina aren’t willing to pay the high prices.

The problem at the heart of all of this is what to do with all the waste from poultry operations, and using it to produce energy is as good a solution as we have for now.    However, based on what I’ve learned about the process Fibrowatt uses, I’ve come down firmly on the “oppose” side of the coin about whether their technology should even be used.  The research I reported here on the blog suggests, at least to my mind, that farm-level approaches are probably more sustainable, even though they represent significant capital investment requirements for family farms. 

For now, Fibrowatt still has projects planned in coastal North Carolina and on the Eastern Shore in Maryland.  In Maryland, they’ve allied with Perdue, the big player in poultry.  But they still need to find the power company to pay their high prices for electricity.  Until they do, there will be more delays and cancellations – a development that is good for all of us.

Here’s a link to the article about the NC project cancellation:

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