Poop power seemed like a godsend — possibly the perfect way to prevent the kind of mess Hurricane Floyd made 10 years ago when it flooded lagoons filled with fetid pig waste. Lawmakers had that in mind two years ago when they set quotas for utilities to buy power generated through alternative sources. Not long after that, Langhorne, Pa.-based Fibrowatt LLC announced it would build a plant in Sampson County that would burn chicken litter to make electricity. “We’d hoped people would recognize the tremendous benefits,” spokesman Terry Walmsley says. “This is for poultry waste, not swine, but the principle is the same.”
Opponents, though, are raising a stink. Citizens for a Safe Environment, founded in neighboring Duplin County nine years ago to fight a regional landfill, is lobbying legislators to effectively ban the plant. It says a Fibrowatt operation in Benson, Minn., emits harmful amounts of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and other pollutants. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People complains that the company would operate in a part of Sampson County populated mostly by blacks, off Interstate 40 near Faison, and would send a steady stream of waste trucks past homes.
Fibrowatt remains unruffled and still hopes to complete the $200 million plant in 2012. Two other power stations, in Montgomery and Surry counties, are in the works. It has taken a soft-sell approach in Sampson, responding to concerns at open-house meetings. “The fact that we’re developing a sizable industrial project in a rural area means people are wary,” Walmsley says. “That’s natural. A lot aren’t opposed to it as an entity — just not in my backyard.”
Because it’s near lots of poultry farmers, the plant will minimize truck travel, and the vehicles will be tightly sealed to prevent odor, he says. It will employ 100 and produce about 55 megawatts of electricity — enough for about 40,000 houses. Waste will be stored inside and burned in a way that minimizes odor. “It’ll have a minimum impact on health and the environment.”
The next step, Walmsley says, is getting utilities to sign power-purchase agreements. Without them, the plan will never hatch, and the opposition hasn’t helped. “We haven’t progressed as fast as we’d hoped. It’s all new to everybody.”WILMINGTON — Cooperative Banksharesmust raise $25 million by mid-July to allay regulators’ concerns about its capital. It must also get approval before paying dividends.