Three days before Christmas, Newberry County Council signed off on a deal that will bring new jobs, investment and money into the county.
The announcement was made in 2008 that Loblolly Green Power would build a biomass fuel facility off Highway 34-121 on the Bush River. Since then the project left the community’s eye but things like permits were worked on.
This week the ownership of the project transferred from Rollcast Energy to North Star Renewable Power. Next week the ground will be broken on the $150-$200 million project and a water tank will be built.
The plant will be in production by fall 2013 and use unmarketable wood products like the tops and limbs of pines, curved trees and wooden pallets to produce enough energy for 55,000 households at a rate of 10,000 kilowatts.
The new facility will use some 600,000 tons of biomass a year.
“We feel we have a wood basket here that has been skipped over,” said North Star CEO Rick Cashatt.
The facility will employ 30 people with another 100 support jobs to serve it. The management of North Star says the new facility will also add another 200 positions in the community.
North Star is also signing a contract with the City of Newberry to purchase grey water from its waste water treatment plant next door.
The energy produced will be sold to Santee Cooper which supplies power to the electric cooperatives of the state, including Newberry Electric.
Newberry County Council Chair Buddy Livingston said the new industry should add jobs to the community and benefit local loggers and landowners.
“It is a win, win,” he said.
Cashatt added the new plant will be more of a benefit to the environment by producing a market for the non-marketable wood. The plant will also help reduce the dependence on foreign energy and is environmental friendly.
Also today, county leaders signed off on a building permit to start the facility. With the start by Dec. 31, the plant will get a 30 percent matching grant from the federal government.