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Rutland Herald: Biomass, greenhouse project promises 300 jobs


An agreement between the developer of a proposed biomass and pellet manufacturing facility and a local hydroponic vegetable producer promises to bring upwards of 300 jobs to Rutland County.

Beaver Wood Energy and Vermont Hydroponic Produce announced Tuesday they will be adding a 10-acre greenhouse complex and wholesale Grower’s Hub warehouse adjacent to the proposed 29.5-megawatt wood-fueled biomass plant and pellet-manufacturing facility off Route 4 in Fair Haven.

Tom Emero, a principal with Beaver Wood, said the agreement has been in discussion on-and-off for more than a year before coming to fruition several weeks ago. He said they have been planning on something like this for some time.

“We’ve got a whole other component (now),” he said. “The power plant has tremendous efficiency. With the greenhouses we gain additional efficiency.”

Emero said the greenhouses and the warehouse will use recycled water and excess low-grade heat from the biomass plant that will allow for year-round growing. The food produced in the greenhouses along with food from local farmers will be sold and distributed throughout New England from the Grower’s Hub.

“It is a way to utilize the made in Vermont moniker,” Emero said. “It will be a distribution point.”

Jeff Jones, managing partner for Vermont Hydroponic Produce, said Tuesday they are very excited to be partnering with Beaver Wood on the project that will offer a greater capacity for fruit and vegetable production. He said anything from tomatoes to peppers to strawberries can be grown year-round.

Jones said his company headquarters in Florence currently has six greenhouses on one-third of an acre of land. He said the project in Fair Haven will be very different with state-of-the-art equipment.

“The reason we can afford it is that the heat from the Beaver Wood plant is a great benefit for the project,” he said. “Currently we spend thousands of dollars to heat our greenhouses.”

Jones said once the project is constructed, it will be something Vermonters can be proud of and something that other states will look at as a model for year-round agriculture.

According to Emero, the benefits of the project are endless from tax payments to the town, to an increase in jobs and distribution of goods across New England. He said the 300 permanent jobs created by the project include 25 jobs at the biomass plant, 25 jobs at the pellet manufacturing facility, 100 jobs at the greenhouses and another 150 jobs in the forest industry.

Beaver Wood’s biomass and manufacturing facilities are estimated to cost $250 million. The expansion is expected to cost an additional $11 million.

Emero said the project construction will be dependent on the how long it takes to obtain permits. He said they are also working on securing a power-selling agreement and expect to refile with the Vermont Public Service Board in the Section 248 process soon for the biomass facility.

Jones said they are cautiously excited for the project to move forward, but wants to wait until everything is stamped before opening the champagne.

“It would be exciting to get the project under way,” he said, “and get some shovels on the ground so we can start building alongside the biomass plant.”