The Business Journal Serving a Five County Area in NE Ohio and NW Pennsylvania

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Thursday, MAY 22, 2008

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Plans Advance for $235M Renewable Energy Plant
April 2, 2008 7:14 a.m. By Dan O’Brien YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- A plan to build a $235 million renewable energy center in Smith Township means the creation of more jobs, provides a sensible method to recycle waste and offers potential savings for consumers of energy in Mahoning County, officials say. At the county’s recycling division policy board meeting Tuesday, representatives of Gregory Benik details TransLoad America Inc. and Jefferson energy project. Renewable Energy announced a joint effort to build the first major alternative energy plant in the area. “This will have a major economic impact [on the Mahoning Valley],” said Gregory Benik, president and chief executive officer of Jefferson Renewable, based in Warwick, R.I. “It amounts to a $235 million capital investment in Mahoning County, employ about 250 construction workers and create 60 full-time employees with an average salary of $50,000 a year.” The new center would sit on 30 acres owned by TransLoad, which bought the landfill in Smith Township two years ago. The idea is to convert municipal solid waste and construction debris into enough gas and steam to produce electricity. The plant would run a connection with a nearby substation about a half mile from the proposed site. Jefferson would sell the electricity generated wholesale to retailers such as FirstEnergy, which then distributes the power across the county. The company is considering at least three retailers -- FirstEngergy, Constellation New Energy and Sempra, he added. Benik says some 87% of Ohio’s electricity is generated by power plants fueled by coal. Of that 87%, 60% of the coal used is from out of state. Ohio, he noted, is the fourth-largest consumer of electricity in the country. “It’s expected we’ll need 356,000 megawatts by 2025,” he remarked. “We need to find other sources of energy.” The new center would use some of the latest technology available for renewable energy plants. “The technology developed has been extraordinary over the last 20 years,” Benik said, emphasizing the process has minimal impact on the environment. Among the technological accoutrements are a fully enclosed tipping

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The Business Journal Serving a Five County Area in NE Ohio and NW Pennsylvania
floor where waste is received via truck and rail, a “pre-process system” that separates recyclable waste from the plant’s feedstock; and a negative air pressure storage unit that readies gas and steam to produce electricity. Such centers are in operation in western Europe and Japan, where landfill space is minimal, Benik said. There are also plants in the United States that use the same technology to convert waste into energy. Once the center is finished, it would have the capacity to recycle 2,050 tons of waste per day that would generate 60 to 90 megawatts of power. Benik said he hopes to begin work on the new plant in a year. That’s about how long it takes for the necessary permits to be approved from various regulatory agencies, especially the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. “The air permit is a critical path to the project,” he said. The company was scheduled to present its plan today before Ohio EPA officials in Columbus. Once the appropriate permits are secured, it would probably take another 18 months to build the plant, he said. The waste used to fuel the center would come from the TransLoad landfill, added Scot Evans, vice president of compliance at TransLoad. TransLoad operates transfer stations on the East Coast that send in waste via rail to the landfill. Additional waste stored there comes from various sources in northeastern Ohio. “Our intent is to store bales of waste intact and feed the plant,” he stated. The landfill could store about 5,000 tons of waste a day for processing at the plant, creating more than enough supply, he assured reporters. Victor Gatto, chairman of Caletta Renewable Energy, the parent of Jefferson Renewable, said the company is developing similar energy plants in Erie, Pa., and Springfield, Mass. The plant in Erie will use gas generated from the combustion of rubber tires, while the center in Springfield burns construction debris. The Mahoning County plant would be fed construction debris and municipal solid waste, not old tires. The city of Akron once powered its thermal heating plant with gas generated by burning used tires. However, the recycling center was closed because of EPA violations. Customers who buy energy from a retailer supplied by the new plant should see lower energy bills, Benik said. “Customers could see significant improvement” because Jefferson Renewable would be selling its power at a lower price to retailers. Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said the project couldn’t “have come at a better time” for Mahoning County, given the rising costs of natural gas and oil. Benik said the company would not seek any incentives other than what the county’s economic development or community reinvestment programs provide. “We’re very positive about the project,” he remarked. Copyright 2008 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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