By NANCY ALLEN
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
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
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,
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
“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,”
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.