The Transylvania Times -

 
 

By Eric Crews
Staff Writer 

County A Frontrunner For Biofuel Plant - Brevard NC

 

The proposed facility would be located on the current Transylvania County Airport site. (Courtesy photo)

A proposed $22.3 million power plant in Penrose could put Transylvania County at the forefront in the race toward fossil-fuel independence.

The proposed power plant would be a 4-megawatt facility that would use biomass to generate gas that would fuel electric generators, accord-ing to records obtained from the N.C. Utilities Commission.

The business owners, listed as Renewable Developers, LLC, are currently in the process of negotiating a long-term agreement with Duke Energy to provide up to 33,600-megawatt hours of electricity per year at a yet-to-be built power plant, according to applications on file with the N.C. Utilities Commission.

The application also states the power plant would be built on the site of the Transylvania Community Airport near the intersection of Crab Creek Road and Old Highway 64.

One of the current landowners of the airport, Kenneth Allison, would be an active equity partner, the application said.

According to Matthew Ross, who is listed as the owner’s agent for the purposes of the applications on file with the N.C. Utilities Commission, the details of a deal that would bring the power plant proposed for the airport location have yet to be finalized.

“There are other sites that we have looked at and continue to look at both within and outside of North Carolina,” he said. “But Transylvania County con-tinues to be a front runner and a strong interest of ours moving forward.”

The technology used to generate electricity at the plant (see below) is among the most cutting edge in the world and is quickly emerging as a viable source of renewable energy, Ross said.

“This is tried and true technology that is effective and is not going to be a risk in any way to the county,” he said. “The process we use is an extremely clean, state of the art gasification system that will convert the raw feed stock, MSW and wood waste into a synthetic gas that closely resembles natural gas.

“That gas will then be used to feed into a generator to create electricity. It’s a closed loop system. It bears absolutely no resemblance to incineration. This is quite possibly the most green and sustainable way to produce electricity outside of solar and wind. There are very, very low emissions.”

Ross said Renewable Developers, LLC, would be working with the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources and other state agencies to receive all necessary permits.

Ross said the advantages of this type of power plant facility is that unlike solar energy and wind energy, biomass reactors allow clean, renewable energy to be produced regardless of whether there is sun or wind.

“It’s extremely clean,” he said. “It doesn’t have a lot of smell or noise that would offend the neighbors. We’ll do everything we can to work with the county to make it a positive experience in the community.”

Ross said the maximum height of the facility would be roughly 30 feet.

“Everything will be under cover, enclosed in the building,” he said. “It will be completely invisible from the street. There will be no smoke. There will be extremely little noise. There will be a small amount of traffic from the trucks used to bring in the feedstock.”

Ross compared the amount of emissions produced by the proposed project to roughly 25 small engine automobiles.

“We’re not talking about a giant power plant,” he said. “We’re talking about a pretty modest facility. So, although we are buying a large piece of land, we are only going to be using a very small footprint. The actual power plant will fit in less than an acre of space.”

Ross said the construction of the power plant is the first phase of what could be three or four future phases at the airport location.

“Ultimately, the project would like to expand into the production of green diesel fuel for North Carolina,” he said.

Expansion would come in the form of additional modular units that would use the same technology.

Solar power production and other green energy technology could also be explored at the site in the future, he said.The first phase of the power plant would employ around 15 to 20 full-time employees.

An additional 10 to 15 transportation workers would be hired to transport the biomass to the site.

In recent months, representatives with Renewable Developers, LLC, met with county staff, commissioners and others in the county to discuss their interest in the project.

“We look forward to moving forward more quickly in the spring and summer and hopefully be actually moving dirt in the fall,” Ross said.

The proposed power plant would consist of three major components: feedstock processing, pyrolysis gasification and power generation.

In the feedstock processing stage, a combination of biomass, wood, municipal solid waste and agricultural waste would arrive at the facility, where it would then be dried, chipped and shredded to ensure the material is sufficiently homogenous to serve as fuel for the system.

In the second stage, four pyrolysis reactors would each process 24 tons per day of the dried feedstock into synthetic gas, also known as Syngas.

A series of screw conveyor systems would deliver the dried feedstock to the pyrolysis reactors where the material would be converted into Syngas using ultra-low emission burners.

The final phase of the power plant’s operations would come as the Syngas is channeled into a gas skid and cleanup chamber. From there, the Syngas would be fed into two to four internal combustion engines which, in turn, would generate the renewable electricity that would be transmitted onto the local utility’s grid.