Plant presents possibilities

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2005

When you look at the numbers it is hard not to get excited about the possibilities that could come from a partnership between farmers and West Wind Technology. Thursday’s meeting at Linden Baptist Church brought forth several positives that caught the eye of many.

Among them were leaders of the Linden Industrial Board. Pat Dixon, co-chair of the Linden Industrial Board, said she was thrilled about the possible economic boost the plant could bring.

“We are pleased about the possibilities and even more proud that you have responded,” Dixon said. “We feel that you have a lot of questions and we want to give you answers.”

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Dixon said she has been impressed with the idea of everyone profiting.

“I have been really impressed at how they are determined that the landowner in this region benefit as much as anybody from this project,” Dixon said. “They want their landowners to benefit and that is very commendable.”

Kevin Dixon, chairman of the board, said they had set up the meeting for the purpose of answering questions and showing how the area could benefit.

“The purpose of this meeting and presentation is to show a proposal for the plant,” Dixon said. “The total cost, and the stages of how it will be developed and the phases. The main reason we are here today is to let the plant tell us what it is going to require to make the plant productive.”

However, before the project can get off the ground they need land. John Woods, who was at the meeting to represent West Wind Technology, told the crowd that assembled that nothing could be done without them.

“We will be depending on you to get this project going,” Woods said. “We can’t do it by ourselves. I think you will see as we go along that this is doable, it is a large scale project and the goal is to produce a high quality pulp that can be extremely competitive with the eucalyptus and other pulps that are now affecting the market.”

Woods said the mill could eventually revamp some plants in the area that have fallen on hard times.

“We believe we will be able to reopen mills in the southeast,” Woods said. “We will have a mill here that will show just how profitable and how sustainable this crop can be for the southeast.”

Woods hit on several advantages the plant could bring to the area. One of the biggest was a fast turnover. This would be something new to timber farmers. Woods said they were hoping to create a crop that was fast and profitable.

“West Wind is committed and our vision is to produce a substitute for wood,” Woods said. “We want a product that is sustainable and has a very short rotation.”

Woods said their product could be harvested twice a year and could be harvested after 24 months of being planted.

Global Cellular System would operate as the industrial developer to construct and bring online a power plant and pulp mill. They would base their operations on environmentally friendly processes that require a dedicated, long term year round supply of Arundo donax biomass chips as the raw material.

There were several possible benefits to the community pointed out during the meeting. West Wind Technology representatives pointed out their goal was to generate a high yield income; employ about 500 at their power plant and pulp mill and 50 to 75 at the plantation; and supply excess electricity at a low reasonable rate. It is also hoped the use of Arundo Donax can replace importing 1,823,000 barrels of oil per year.

As for the land itself, growing arundo has the potential to prevent soil erosion, which can clog streams and prevent excess nutrients from getting into the streams. It could also prevent rapid water runoff and flash flooding.

Because arundo is easy to grow it would also decrease the amount of herbicides and pesticides used in farming operations, which end up in lakes and streams. It also reduces the amount of fertilizers that are used in many crop farms. Arundo leaves could also be used to feed livestock.

The meeting was a preview for next Thursdays meeting at the Linden Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. Approxomatley 300 business and political leaders are expected.