FibroWatt meets more challenges

First Posted: 9/23/2009

DOBSON The county is trying to prevent a state action that could delay or hinder the FibroWatt plant from locating in Surry County.
At their board meeting on Monday night, the Surry County commissioners authorized the county manager and county attorney to work on a motion for intervention to be filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission. This will counteract a motion filed by energy companies wishing to reduce the amount of power they have to buy from FibroWatt.
On Aug. 14, Progress Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Carolinas, Dominion North Carolina Power, North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency and North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number 1 filed a joint motion with the Utilities Commission in Raleigh.
Beginning in 2007, state law required energy companies to set aside or buy a certain amount of poultry or hog waste for energy. With the joint motion, the energy companies are requesting a delay in the implementation of this requirement, a reduction in the amount of poultry waste they have to set aside, and a modification of the pricing provision for the purchase of the renewable energy.
This would limit the amount of energy to be bought from FibroWatt. Commissioner Craig Hunter said in an e-mail that to his knowledge this motion would not kill the FibroWatt effort but may delay it.
County Manager Dennis Thompson explained, If theres less energy to be bought, theres less of an incentive for them.
Thompson said he did not know of a date by which the North Carolina Utilities Commission must act on the requests. Surry County has already submitted comments to the Utilities Commission regarding the joint motion. Sampson and Montgomery counties, other potential locations for FibroWatt plants, also submitted comments voicing their opinions on the matter.
The county is saying we are favorable to FibroWatt, in essence, Thompson remarked.
Ed Woltz, county attorney, submitted the comments to the Utilities Commission on Sept. 18. During the commissioners meeting, he said, Theyre sort of pulling the rug out from under us now, so were asking that the status quo be maintained.
Woltz commented during the meeting that reducing the purchase requirement would reduce the number of FibroWatt plants from three to one. But Hunter said in an e-mail that he has not heard if this will happen.
The county has been working with FibroWatt since 2007 to bring a plant to the area. FibroWatt uses poultry waste to generate renewable energy. The county spent $776,500 to purchase the property for the facility to be known as FibroHills. According to the county comments, this could add $140,000,000 to the countys tax base and produce around 100 permanent jobs.
Part of the countys comments to the Utilities Commission read, The development of the FibroHills facility as an alternative means for the disposal of poultry waste is as important to the economy and citizens of Surry County and the region as its direct economic impact in the creation of tax base, jobs and renewable energy.
According to the 2008 Surry County Farm Income Estimate produced by the Surry County Cooperative Extension, poultry production generated $119,875,000 or 60.8 percent of the total farm income in Surry County in 2008.
The Surry County comments state that poultry production in the county produces approximately 43,500 tons of waste per year. Alternative waste disposal methods are recommended by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension.
Contact Meghann Evans at [email protected] or at 719-1952.

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