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Charlotte Area News

Trash-To-Energy Plant Moving Ahead In Meck Co

Developers hoping to turn Mecklenburg County's trash into electricity are scaling back their plans in order to limit concerns over air pollution. At one point, the developers of ReVenture Park said they wanted to build a power plant on the western edge of Mecklenburg County that could power up to 80,000 homes. Then they said 30,000 homes was the target. Now it's 20,000 homes - or 20 megawatts of electricity they hope to generate from the county's household garbage. ReVenture's Tom McKittrick says that size is important to fall under a key air pollution threshold. "We are so focused on this 'minor source permit,' that a 20 mgw plant size gives us a fairly significant amount of head room to be well under those limits," says McKittrick. McKittrick adds the ReVenture team considered more than 17 different technology companies before settling on one called ICM to provide the critical technology for the power plant. Without that information, McKittrick couldn't answer the burning question on the minds of Charlotte city officials and air quality regulators: Exactly what will come out of the plant's smokestack? Now McKittrick can point to an ICM demonstration plant in Kansas using the same technology ReVenture has settled on. "Gasification" is the technical term. It entails sorting the trash, turning it into pellets and then heating them until they become gas which is burned to create electricity. Critics have likened the plant to a trash incinerator. McKittrick acknowledges the facility will likely have to be permitted as an incinerator, but insists the plant's emissions will produce a very minimal amount of "any air pollutants, including greenhouse gas emissions." Now that the plant's size and technology is confirmed, ReVenture is set to return to the city council next week in search of approval.