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Company chosen to run waste-burning plant

Charlotte-based Forsite Development is one step closer to turning Mecklenburg County’s waste into energy at its proposed 30-megawatt renewable energy biomass power plant.

Forsite announced today it will team with Charlotte-based FCR Recycling to design and run a key component of ReVenture Park: the $30 million recycled-fuel facility that developers say will divert approximately 340,000 tons of waste annually from local landfills.

Forsite President Tom McKittrick said Forsite interviewed other companies from across the country before choosing FCR, which also handles the single-stream recycling program for Mecklenburg County.

ReVenture Park is a 667-acre eco-industrial park being developed on the former Clariant Corp. chemical plant site in western Mecklenburg County.

The location along the Catawba River is a Superfund site, a federal designation given to heavily contaminated areas that pose health and environmental risks. Forsite is working with state officials to change the site’s status to brownfield.

The recycled fuel will be created by processing waste through a state-of-the-art system that will eliminate materials that can cause air pollution during the process of creating energy, such as polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, electronics and batteries, according to a press release from Forsite.

Environmental groups, including the Piedmont chapter of the Sierra Club, have expressed concerns about emissions from the proposed waste-to-energy plant and have called the plant an incinerator. But McKittrick said the biggest difference between the ReVenture project and conventional waste-to-energy plants is the proposed power plant will use recycled fuel and not raw garbage.

He said recyclables and pollutant-causing materials will be removed from the waste before being used as a fuel, which will help increase recycling rates and push Charlotte toward a zero-waste goal. The Sierra Club and Charlotte Center City Partners have called for a zero-waste goal for the county.

“The aggressive recycling recovery part of this project will not only harvest hundreds of thousands of tons of renewable resources, it will ensure Mecklenburg County is fully compliant with the North Carolina law which bans bottles and cans from landfills and dramatically improve the environmental footprint of the county,” Forsite’s press release says.

McKittrick called FCR one of the largest recycling companies in the nation. FCR, whose parent company is Rutland, Vt.-based Casella Waste Systems, operates recycling facilities across the U.S. and a waste-to-energy plant in Maine.

McKittrick said one of the reasons FCR stood out from its competition is that the company can engineer waste-derived fuel into a coal substitute compatible with coal-powered plants. FCR also can reduce emissions by “scrubbing,” or removing emissions on the combustion side of the power-generating process, unlike current technology that scrubs emissions after the combustion process.

Forsite is still finalizing plans for the technology that will convert the waste into electricity, but that process just got a bit easier now that the partnership with FCR is finalized, McKittrick said.

“Being a very-low-emissions project is exponentially easier if you start with a clean fuel,” he said. “Creating a clean fuel is every bit as important if not more important than the technology to turn that material into electricity.”

McKittrick said Forsite plans to use a pyrolysis gasification technology that uses high heat and low oxygen to create a synthetic gas used to heat a boiler. The steam created from that process would be used to turn a turbine and create electricity. He said pyrolysis is the best technology available for turning waste into energy.

Forsite expects to increase the county’s residential recycling rate to greater than 35 percent and the landfill-diversion rate to levels more than 65 percent. Over the life of the project, the amount of trash diverted would be enough to fill Bank of America Stadium, Forsite said.

The project will likely be developed at the closed Statesville Avenue landfill site at Interstate 85 and Statesville Avenue Road and is expected to create more than 100 new green jobs in the county, according to the press release.

It is slated to be operational by April of 2012, prior to July 2012 when the county’s contract with the Charlotte Motor Speedway Landfill ends.

FCR has operated the county’s recycling center for more than 20 years. The company employs 95 people in Charlotte and operates 21 recycling facilities in 11 states.

In addition to the biomass power plant, plans for ReVenture Park include a wastewater-treatment facility, a 4-megawatt solar field on a 25-acre closed landfill and a 185-acre conservation easement and trail system along Long Creek basin that will connect the Carolina Thread Trail and the U.S. National White Water Center.

“ReVenture is the most innovative and sustainable large-scale project that I have seen in my 25 years in the recycling business,” Sean Duffy, vice president of FCR, said in the press release. “We have spent the last five years perfecting our design for recycled fuel and we are thrilled to have been selected as Forsite’s waste-processing partner. With this project, Charlotte will solidify its leadership position in sustainable practices among major municipalities. Ultimately, we hope this project will show other cities there are significantly better ways to manage waste over simply burying garbage in a landfill.”

Tara Ramsey can be reached at tara.ramsey@mecktimes.com.

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