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The Daily



10-23-03: Manure-burning plant still possible in area


No decision has been made on whether or not a $24 million biomass facility that burns livestock manure to generate electricity will be built in Mercer County.
The company looking at building the facility is still trying to lock in the fuel supply — 210,000 tons of poultry and livestock manure needed per year to generate electricity for the proposed 12 to 15 megawatt electric plant.
Paul Felger, president of Commodity Drying, a 5-year-old company based in Fort Wayne, Ind., said it is taking him a bit longer than he anticipated to line up the manure and he is still talking with local producers to come to an agreement. In a Sept. 19 story published in The Daily Standard, Felger said he would make his decision in 30 days.
Felger has confirmed that he is looking at an area northeast of Fort Recovery as a possible site for the electric plant, which would burn a mixture of poultry, cattle/dairy and hog manure.
The southwest part of the county near Fort Recovery is an area central to most of the county’s large poultry and livestock operations. Mercer County has the largest concentration of livestock of any county in the state and as a consequence, struggles with water quality issues.
Felger said Commodity Drying has a letter of intent signed by a power broker to purchase electricity from the plant if it is built and verbal agreements from two local poultry producers to provide half (105,000 tons) the manure to power the plant. Felger would not identify the power broker or the producers. He also said he is talking with others in the area about various types of products he could use as fuel at the plant, such as wood crates.
Felger said the plant would be completely automated and would employ about 28 skilled people in engineering and other technical jobs. It would take about four acres of land upon which to build the facility, he said.
The plant would produce little odor, he claimed, since the odor-filled air from the fuel (manure) storage gallery would be pumped into the boiler and used in the combustion process. The ash byproduct generated from the burned manure would be sold as fertilizer, he said.
Felger said he is still working with producers to come to an agreement on how they would be compensated for their manure. An arrangement whereby producers could share joint ownership in the facility is one possibility being discussed, he said.
Felger, who was raised on a family dairy farm near Arcola, Ind., said he originally planned to build a manure-burning facility that dried a corn byproduct and other commodities. Once he discovered the large amount of manure produced in Mercer County, he reworked his plan to make the end result electricity.
Felger said the plant could provide a win-win situation for everyone involved. Large poultry and livestock farmers who sometimes struggle to deal with the manure their animals produce would especially benefit.
“I got to fooling around with drying stuff and got to realize the biggest problem farmers have is trying to find something to do with their manure and this would be an answer to it,” he said.
Felger said Energy Products of Idaho (EPI), a company whose technology already is being used to build electric plants that use alternative power sources, would build the boiler that burns the manure and a generator manufacturer would build the generator. The bulk of the money to build the $24 million plant likely would come from investors and some from grants and state money that provides incentives for alternate power use.
Mercer County Community Development Director Larry Stelzer, who along with county commissioners and Fort Recovery village officials has met with Felger about the project, said the county wants no ownership in the facility, but is prepared to offer the same type of help it would offer to any other new industry.
“The county has offered to help with low-interest loans, tax abatements, job creation tax credits and equipment tax credits from the state,” Stelzer said. “We definitely feel it could be a godsend for Mercer County if it works.”
Members of the Wabash Watershed Alliance (WWA), a group working to improve water quality in the Wabash River Watershed in Mercer and Darke counties, have encouraged the plant’s location in the county because it may decrease the amount of livestock manure that reaches the watershed’s creeks and streams.
Lance Schwarzkopf, the WWA watershed coordinator, said he plans to apply for some state and federal grants to help with costs, such as buying a manure press and a methane digester. A manure press squeezes excess water from manure so it can be burned, and a methane digester uses manure to produce methane gas that can be burned to generate electricity.
“We’re still researching all options to see what all we can get to work with this,” Schwarzkopf said.


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