Linden may add industry

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 18, 2005

Demopolis Times staff report

Marengo County is best known for its rich farming history. All over the county there are crop, cattle and catfish farms. However, if a new plant chooses to make Marengo its home there could be a new type of farm emerging.

West Wind Technology met with local leaders, including the Linden Industrial Development Board to discuss the possibilities of a plant, which would use the pulp from bamboo to produce paper or electricity.

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Leaders are optimistic that the plant can become a reality, however, there are some requirements that would need to be met. It is estimated that 15,000 acres of land and a lot of time will be necessary to begin production. Once the acreage is in place it would probably take three months for nursery development, six to eight months for the clearing and preparing of the site. Planting would start 10 to 12 months afterward and the first full harvest would be about 24 months after the start date.

The possibilities surrounding the use of bamboo to produce Arundo donax have created a lot of excitement. Production using Arundo donax has been proven to be far more productive than that of wood or other non-wood products.

Studies have shown that when harvesting 100 pounds of Arundo donax, wood or other products there is a huge difference in production and waste. With this harvested amount Arundo donax produces only one pound of waste while wood produces 12 pounds. Other products were shown to leave 50 pounds of waste behind.

Arundo donax is also virtually disease and insect resistant and needs very little attention. It also reaches maturity in about a year and can be harvested annually. This is probably one of the biggest differences of all between wood and Arundo donax as wood normally takes 30 years to harvest.

The environmental and production benefits have been eye-catching, but the most important statistic of all has been employment. The plant could employ as many as 400 people.

In some instances, when a power plant is constructed 600 to 650 people could be employed with 500 to 550 at the plant and mill and 100 at the farms.

An electrical supply from this size operation could replace importing 1,823,000 barrels of oil a year.

The company is expected to have further negotiations in the future to discuss which avenues to take and where they would like to start.