Some will just never be satisfied (Editorial)
In December, Perdue Agribusiness and Fibrowatt submitted a proposal for Maryland’s Clean Bay Power project to build a manure to energy facility with up to 10 megawatt capacity.
It wasn’t the company’s first foray into alternative energy.
Months earlier, the poultry company’s grain division left with hundreds of barley contracts to move on the open market after it was announced the Appomattox Bioenergy ethanol plant in Hopewell, Va., would go up for sale and not begin production as was previously scheduled.
But, with massive solar arrays powering two of its sites on Delmarva, two biomass-fueled boilers in North Carolina and its Perdue AgriRecyle litter pelletizing plant, the company is no stranger to alternative energy and innovation with managing litter and clearly saw the potential in putting them both together in a plant converting manure to energy.
The proposal would create about 180 construction jobs, 25 jobs to manage the plant and use a state of the art emissions control system to stay within state and federal requirements, according to Perdue.
The proposed project would also make about 70,000 pounds of steam per hour for soybean processing and feed manufacturing, offsetting fossil fuels currently used in those steps.
The Clean Bay Power call for proposals came as a result of Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio standard that requires electric suppliers to purchase 20 percent of it’s power from clean energy sources by 2022 and the subsequent inclusion of poultry litter incineration as a Tier 1 renewable energy source.
By issuing a call for proposals, Gov. Martin O’Malley is clearly interested in a viable litter to energy project.
Even Attorney General Doug Gansler, who’s called on environmental groups and county sheriffs to help his office go after environmental polluters, has been a vocal supporter of such a project.
But last month, enviro-activist group Food and Water Watch condemned the project — surprise, surprise — as an “unsustainable solution” for reducing nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
Such a facility would pollute the air and won’t be able to operate without government funding and tax credits, the group claimed in a news release.
Apparently, nothing short of dismantling the modern chicken industry into some Rockwellian image of a housewife casting feed from her apron to a dozen hens in the yard will solve the Bay’s woes, says the group.
Talk about an unsustainable solution, right?
A $2 billion industry, one of every 12 jobs in the Mid-Atlantic region is directly or indirectly dependent on the chicken industry.
The Perdue/Fibrowatt project will be no silver bullet in solving the Bay’s troubles, just as there is no save-all form of renewable energy.
And, should the proposal gain approval, it will still have to secure enough litter from growers to keep the plant running, not necessarily and easy task as it’s value has grown with farmers in the wake of rising input costs.
Yet it is a realistic solution to part of the ag sector’s contribution to Bay cleanup and worth a fair shake.