A seedling idea born during a casual lunch has blossomed into a multi-million dollar project plan to power State Fair Community College with alternative energy.
In February, Pettis County Presiding Commissioner Rusty Kahrs, SFCC President Marsha Drennon, Judge Robert Liston, Administrator of Sedalia Downtown Development Meg Liston, Pettis County Assessor Dean Dohrman, Benne Media Representative Stu Steinmetz and Lee and Linda Neely sat down to enjoy lunch at the Ivory Grille.
A new president had just been elected and national media attention was focused on President Obama’s stimulus package. Those topics dominated the conversation.
“With changes in the administration,” Kahrs said. “We talked about how to take advantage of federal and state funding.”
Kahrs said the group brainstormed ways to use Pettis County’s conservative philosophy to create jobs and better the community.
“We wanted to come up with something to give us the most bang for our buck,” Kahrs said.
Within an hour, the group had decided to pursue plans to build an alternative energy facility. By March SFCC was awarded a $50,000 grant to hire a consulting firm to determine the feasibility of the project. Mike Mills, principal with Spectrum Consulting Group, identified available technology and developed expense and revenue projections.
And so the Missouri Center for Waste to Energy project was off to a running start. Over the next four months, the group met with legislators and approached area business about becoming partners in the project. “We never hit a roadblock,” Kahrs said.
A look at the project
The proposed Missouri Center for Waste to Energy will be designed to capture landfill gas and convert landfill waste materials and agriculture residue into electricity. The facility also will serve as a hands-on training center for SFCC students and employees in advanced energy systems and related technologies. It also will serve as a test facility for new technologies and educational programs. The center will be located at the Waste Corporation of Missouri Central Landfill site located on U.S. Hwy. 50 in Sedalia.
Mills said the location is ideal because major transmission lines are already in place.
The first phase of the project will establish base operations at the landfill including training and marketing of the facility. During the initial phase, the facility will harvest landfill gas, called methane, into electricity. The second phase will be to turn waste, such as paper, into electricity through a gasification method.
The electricity produced by the center will be fed back onto the power grid via a power purchase from Kansas City Power and Light and then benefit SFCC through a utility buy down. “Trash has no value,” Kahrs said, “with this project we would be adding value.”
SFCC received a $50,000 grant in May from Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. That money was used to hire Spectrum Consulting Group from Columbia.
Partners associated with the project also have applied for a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $1,620,000.
The cost to develop and equip the center is estimated at between $5.5 and $10 million. Net revenues and fees from the center will be used to staff and maintain the center.
SFCC will serve as the primary not-for-profit sponsor for the development of the center, including providing the primary conduit for grants and other capital resources. The college also plans to develop and implement training programs associated with the center. SFCC also will lead the development and implementation of all training programs. Drennon said the college plans to implement a two-year degree program, both online and on-campus, in alternative energy.
“We want to make this program available to students around the world,” she said.
WCM has agreed to develop an acceptable plan for installation, construction and operation of 75 gas well systems at the landfill. They also plan to negotiate an acceptable lease and operating agreement for five acres of land at the Central Missouri Landfill, where the center will be built.
WCM Representative Kevin O’Brien said 1,500 cubic feet of methane will be harvested through the gas well system per minute.
“This is a great opportunity,” O’Brien said.
ProEnergy is expected to provide ongoing expertise to the development, construction and refinement of the center, including up to $250,000 of in-kind consulting engineering. ProEnergy also has expressed an interest in leading the operations at the center.
John Smeltzer, director of operations and maintenance, said he was pleased to be a part of the project.
“I was somewhat skeptical at first,” he said, “but then I realized they had something there.”
Kansas City Power and Light
KCP&L plans to negotiate a power purchase agreement with the center, which would include an established price and length of commitment. They also will guarantee access to the KCP&L-owned power grid.
KCP&L also agreed to participate in an advisory role in the development of the center. Mark Dawson, district community affairs manager, said KCP&L is grateful to be involved in the project.
“We are proud to play a small part in this unique project,” Dawson said. “Not only is this good for Pettis County, but for Missouri as well.”
Dawson said the center would create new green power jobs and create new opportunities in education.
Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County
EDSPC has agreed to work with the project partners to source financing. They also plan to work with regional industries to coordinate waste streams which may be diverted to the center for conversion into energy. EDSPC also will lead the marketing strategy for the alternative energy facility.
City of Sedalia
The City of Sedalia has agreed to explore diversion of city-controlled waste streams to the center. They also plan to prioritize the center when seeking grant funding.
“This project is going to benefit everyone by reducing energy costs,” Mayor Elaine Horn said.
Pettis County has agreed to source financing and prioritize the center’s needs in competitive grant opportunities. County commissioners also plan to work with communities within Pettis County to recognize and divert waste streams, including agriculture residue and community-generated waste.
“This center will reduce waste going into the landfill,” Kahrs said, “and it will benefit Pettis County by creating higher-end technology jobs.”
Kahrs said the building the alternative-energy center also could lead to patents and spin-off businesses.
Pioneer Trails Regional
The commission’s role will be to assist with marketing of the center and the center’s programs to attract new business development opportunities to the area.
Mills said the center will need to hire eight employees for every megawatt produced by the center.
The final target is three megawatts to be produced, which would mean 24 jobs would be created.