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Waddington considers renewable energy market

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WADDINGTON – The town is looking to tap into the renewable energy market.

At Monday’s town council meeting, renewable energy expert Roland Poirier proposed using five to seven acres on Whitehouse Bay to grow sorghum, a grain used for livestock fodder and can be converted into ethanol.

“The plant would bring a diverse amount of products that would generate enough profit to make it sustainable and put some people to work and step away from our need to rely on foreign oil,” Mr. Poirier said.

Mr. Poirier, who toured the area with Councilor Travis McKnight last week, said Whitehouse Bay’s proximity to the St. Lawrence River makes it an ideal place to grow the crop.

Unlike growing corn for ethanol, sorghum does not deplete food sources and is less taxing to the soil because it does not use the same amount of nitrogen, Mr. Poirier said.

Several areas, including Kenya and Israel, are already harvesting the crop.

The town will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. June 20 to discuss leasing the land. If the lease is approved, Mr. Poirier said he would begin planting in mid-June.

If the project is successful, Mr. Poirier said it could be extended for several years and acres, employing several residents to cultivate the land.

“Worst case scenario, if the ethanol part of it fails, there is still a grain byproduct that can be marketed and there is still energy from pelletizing the fibers that can be marketed,” Mr. Poirier said.

The sorghum project could also be one step towards a larger goal, Town Supervisor Mark Scott said. The town is also considering partnering with Sustainable Power and Applied Research Community (SPARC) to develop a renewable energy research facility that would focus on power generation, energy efficiency, and resource sustainability using natural resources from the region at Whitehouse Bay.

“It’s just a concept at this point, but it’s the idea that this area down at Whitehouse Bay would be an area that would foster renewable projects with the intent with coming up with products that could be manufactured somewhere in the north country—it could be Massena, Ogdensburg or Potsdam—it doesn’t have to be Waddington,” Mr. Scott said.

The proposed research complex could range from 100,000 to 150,000 square feet, with up to 50 to 100 academic, professional and support personnel to be located on the site within three years of opening.

The facility could bring long-term, high paying jobs for the town, Mr. Scott said.

The town would have to seek up to $45,000 to $65,000 from the state to fund the conceptual plan in order to move ahead with the project. The project could be completed within two to three years of following funding and approvals, according to the proposal.

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