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Wednesday, 10 January 2007 00:00

Green Energy Park earns EPA recognition

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Jackson County’s Green Energy Park has received the Environmental Protection Agency’s Project of the Year award, giving the one-of-a-kind methane gas recovery project some much deserved recognition.

 

“In the world of landfills, it’s a pretty big deal,” said Park Director Timm Muth.

Muth will go to the EPA’s annual conference in Baltimore this month to speak about the project and accept the award.

“I guess they felt like it’s a pretty innovative project,” Muth said.

The Green Energy Park harvests methane gas created by the decomposition of more than 20 years worth of trash held in the old Jackson County landfill on the outskirts of Dillsboro.

Methane is a potentially explosive gas formed when organic materials decompose in an oxygen free environment. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide. A denser gas than carbon dioxide, methane prevents heat from escaping the atmosphere, making it a greater cause of global warming.

Capturing the methane gas and piping it into a collection system, allows the Green Energy Park to put the gas to good use heating greenhouses, powering artist studios and a biodiesel manufacturing operation.

Similar projects have been constructed, such as the EnergyXchange at the Yancey/Mitchell County landfill, where growers uses greenhouses to raise native plants and potters and glassblowers make use of the high heat produced by burning off the methane gas.

However, the Jackson County Green Energy Park is a world first in its use of methane to power blacksmithing shops. The Park began accepting applications for blacksmiths locate their studios on site in January, issuing a nationwide call to attract the best there are. The Park hopes to team up with Southwestern Community College and Haywood Community College to offer evening introductory blacksmithing classes and advanced classes to help blacksmiths improve their craft.

Plans for pottery and glass blowing studios have been slowed by the cost of renovating the landfill’s old buildings, formerly used as a recycling repository. Rather than renovate the building all at once, Muth said it would most likely be opened in phases.

The Park’s greenhouses will be put into use in spring with the county’s grounds department using them to grow their own plants for landscaping county buildings. County employee and certified landscaper Randy Cabe will be in charge of the program.

“It will be a big savings for them,” Muth said.

For more information about the Park visit www.greenenergypark.org or call 828.631.0271.

— By Sarah Kucharski

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