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Bio facility is a solid idea that will be a benefit to the region

Sun., May 31, 2009, 2 a.m.

Barr Regional Bio-Industrial Park. Kind of a mouthful and, in a sense, it is. Or will be.

Because the proposed composting, anaerobic-digesting, algae-growing and megawatt-generating complex will eat food and other organic waste now trucked to central Washington. If the rollout goes as supporters hope, the park might also attract solar development and greenhouses, eventually becoming a model for similar developments all over the Northwest.

The facility to be built just out of sight of the Interstate 90 Fishtrap exit could have a “soft opening” this fall, says Larry Condon, the business developer for Barr LLC, one of the private parties partnering with the Odessa Public Development Authority to make the project happen.

The authority in January obtained a $2 million package of loans and grants from the Community Economic Revitalization Board to purchase 40 acres of sagebrush and install a road and other infrastructure to the site. A $2 million Community Development Block Grant has also been committed to the project, where Condon projects a total investment of $12 million when all the planned components are in place.

The project will also provide 59 full-time jobs after three years, having employed 87 during construction.

Among those writing letters of support for the development were Spokane Mayor Mary Verner, the Spokane County and Lincoln County commissioners, Avista Utilities and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Pam Kelley, who as executive director of the Lincoln County Economic Development Council did much of the i-dotting and t-crossing, says the project is a rare opportunity to bring industry to farm country and help the state address its solid waste and green energy goals at the same time.

Condon says the park could become the “poster child” for the state’s Beyond Waste Plan, the effort to minimize Washington’s solid waste.

And state and local government should get about $176,000 in annual tax revenue out of the park.

As envisioned, the project’s flow chart looks like something out of Rube Goldberg or, maybe in this case, Greenburg.

Green waste — food, agricultural and forest residue, construction waste, whatever — is hauled to the site, hopefully short-circuiting a 120-mile ride Spokane food now takes to Royal City.

For the first year, Condon says, the material will be composted aerobically. But plans call for capturing the heat and carbon dioxide coming off the piles for use in adjacent greenhouses or algae ponds. Algae is one-half oil, suitable for processing into biodiesel, possibly at Inland Empire Oilseeds in Odessa. A one-acre pond can produce 4,000 gallons.

An alternative process dumps incoming material into an anaerobic digester, which produces methane and more CO2/algae feed. The methane is fed to two, perhaps three Waukesha one-megawatt generators. The electricity qualifies as green power.

The power lines to connect the generators to the grid could do the same for potential solar development that would otherwise be uneconomical.

In addition to the revenues derived from the compost, biodiesel and electricity, credits for the recycled carbon would be sold on exchanges in California and Chicago.

Although other buyers of organic waste have said they are concerned about the 200,000 tons of material the Barr park would consume, Condon says the region produces hundreds of thousands of tons of material, more than enough for everybody — or more Barr-like facilities.

The park, by the way, gets its name from former state Sen. Scott Barr, who is also the property’s former owner. That’s a nice tribute.

Now it’s a matter of getting all those Goldberg/Greenberg pieces to fall into place.

Contact Bert Caldwell at bertc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5450.


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