Eco Park perpetuates ‘green’ trendLast week the Silver Bay City Council approved ballot questions for a May 10 special election that could bring some jobs to the area.
Last week the Silver Bay City Council approved ballot questions for a May 10 special election that could bring some jobs to the area.
The city will be asking for voter permission to run a municipal utility in connection with a proposed eco park along the waterfront.
About 40 construction jobs are expected and 15 pellet plant employees and six logging jobs could be created. There also would be about five employees for a greenhouse at the park used for producing biodiesel, which could eventually lead to another 300 to 500 employees with a full-on operation.
The city is focusing on cluster-based economic development, which means having similar manufacturing pro-cesses that could lead to reduced waste and pollution, reduced transportation costs, and better efficiency.
It could also be a model for providing energy to homes in the future. “If you were to advance the concept, yes,” said Bruce Carman, project coordinator.
One of the cornerstones for the park will be a combined heat and power plant that will use biomass. There would need to be two or three additional plants to power the city and they wouldn’t all be located in the same place.
A pellet facility would be a large user of the energy. Wood pellets could be used in boilers for the various businesses at the park. A wood pellet facility for the retail market is also an option.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “pellet fuel appliances, which burn small pellets that look like rabbit feed and measure 3/8 to 1-inch in length. Pellets are made from compacted sawdust, wood chips, bark, agricultural crop waste, waste paper, and other organic materials.”
The department says the wood pellet systems are much cleaner burning and more efficient and can heat an entire home. They include a catalytic combustor that allows combustion gases to burn at lower temperatures, thereby cleaning the exhaust gas while generating more heat.
A bio-fuel energy facility will also likely be part of the park. Biodiesel would also be used as a backup power supply for the park.
A fish farm built at the park would create waste pumped from the tanks that would settle and become nutrients for water used to grow vegetation, including algae, to be used for biodiesel fuel with the help of greenhouses. The fish could be consumed by local residents. The biodiesel fuel would be used by local industries and also at the park as another fuel source. Rain water would be caught to help with the greenhouse as well.
“There is no waste,” said David Abazs, of Round River Farm in Finland at a presentation to the council on the project in December. He is helping with the project. “This is a community system.” He said it was the first facility like this “in the world.”
The greenhouse could produce about 3,000 pounds of tomatoes, 5,600 heads of bibb lettuce, along with herbs.
The park would also use wind and solar energy.
Another aspect of the park would be an education cluster. The city of Silver Bay is working to identify specific courses that would help with workforce development training and research as well as development in the future.
Carman said if the voters rejected the idea in May, it may not necessarily be the end of the eco park idea. “Ideally we want it to be city owned,” Carman said. He said if a private group owned the utility they would likely charge more for service, which would mean it would be less likely for businesses to come.
Silver Bay needs to either own or form a cooperative to run the facility. The two questions on the ballot would ask for permission to run the utility and ask to incur debt or raise bonds for the project. More than a simple majority (62 percent) needs to vote “yes” for the first question while a majority will do for the second question.
The city is still working on getting funding for the project.
If you go
- There will be public forums to discuss the plan at 6 p.m. March 23 and April 19 at Re-union Hall.