Chamber info meeting hosts pellet plant developers
WILLMAR -- The head of Earthtech Energy expressed his frustration Wednesday at the city's recent denial of a permit for a biomass plant. Gregg Mast, the president and CEO of Earthtech, discussed his company's proposal to build a $10 million bioma...
WILLMAR -- The head of Earthtech Energy expressed his frustration Wednesday at the city's recent denial of a permit for a biomass plant.
Gregg Mast, the president and CEO of Earthtech, discussed his company's proposal to build a $10 million biomass pelletizing plant in northeast Willmar during a meeting Wednesday
"We really believe in the project and have had support from the community," Mast said. "We feel we need to follow this through to finality."
Earthtech is appealing the Willmar Planning Commission's May denial of a conditional use permit for the facility. The Board of Zoning Appeals will meet at 5 p.m. Monday at the Willmar Fire Department to consider the matter.
About 20 Willmar area businessmen and women gathered Wednesday to learn more about the Earthtech Energy. The meeting was hosted by the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce agriculture committee as a venue for people to learn more about the plant, according to Ken Warner, executive director of the chamber.
Mast indicated that Earthtech officials will consider the next step after the appeals board meeting. Options include suing the city if the appeal is not successful or moving on to an alternative site somewhere else in the city.
The plant was proposed for 55-acre site along Civic Center Drive and the Highway 23/71 Bypass. In June, the Willmar City Council asked the Planning Commission to reconsider the denial. The commission upheld the denial.
Steve Renquist, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, acknowledged that developer Warren Erickson, the Willmar School District and the owner of the MinnWest Technology campus are opposed to the site.
Renquist challenged the business leaders to think of the economic future of the city. He asked: "If we don't bring in companies and jobs, what will Willmar and Kandiyohi County become?
The plant is expected to create at least 15 full-time jobs, with a $614,000 annual payroll. In addition, between 60 and 80 additional jobs would be created in the supply chain for the biomass.
If built, the plant would start operating five months after construction began, Mast said. The facility would turn out 200,000 tons of biomass pellets, made from agricultural products like corn stover, a year. The output would heat about 80,000 homes per year.
The necessary agricultural biomass needed for the plant is found within a close radius of the plant, Mast said. The company will not go beyond 75 to 110 miles to collect biomass, he said.
Mast's father has worked with the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute to develop recipes to use various combinations of biomass to create the pellets so that the plant will not be dependent on one particular type of biomass.