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'Green' Power Plant Developer Has Plan To Make Fuel Pellets From Trash

The developers of a proposed biomass facility in western Mecklenburg County have announced plans to turn trash into pellets that can be used for making power. The plan is to re-route all trucks that normally haul Mecklenburg County's trash to the landfill and send them instead to a new processing facility somewhere near I-85 and Statesville Avenue. Then,"it goes through a highly automated process pulling out maximum recyclable material," explains Tom McKittrick, president of Forsite Development. "We think we can increase Mecklenburg County's recycling rate another 15 to 20 percent." The process also pulls out PVC plastics, batteries, electronics other materials "that cause air pollution during energy-conversion process," says McKittrick. What's leftover - things like food and fabric - will be compressed into a kind of briquette fuel for a new power plant Forsite Development plans to build on the western edge of Mecklenburg County. McKittrick touts the project as "green," but environmental groups say the pollution that comes from incinerating trash may do more harm than good. McKittrick says the new facility, known as ReVenture Park, will not pollute as much as a typical incinerator because of the newly-announced recycling facility that will sort out the materials that would be most toxic if burned. And instead of actually burning the pellets that come out of that process, McKittrick says they will be converted into gas at high temperatures. "This synthetic gas that's created from this gasification technology is then burned much like natural gas to heat a boiler, create steam to spin a turbine, and create electricity," explains McKittrick. And that's how McKittrick proposes to turn Mecklenburg County's trash into a renewable source of energy. The project still faces hurdles: Mecklenburg County has yet to sign a contract that would divert its trash to ReVenture Park. And the new power plant will need an air pollution permit. McKittrick says it will be only a "minor source of pollution," but the facility may be required to meet more stringent standards because of its similarity to an incinerator. If the power plant permit falls through, McKittrick says "Plan B" will be to sell the trash pellets to other power companies seeking renewable energy sources.