As early as next week a 3-year-old agricultural developer will announce a site in North Carolina to build its first project: a greenhouse coupled with a green energy generator.
GrowGreen Power, with addresses in Raleigh and Colorado, says the project will bring 300 permanent jobs to a rural county with high unemployment. If all goes according to schedule, the project will be operating before Thanksgiving next year.
The company plans combine a hydroponic greenhouse for growing tomatoes with a biomass electric generator that will burn wood waste as a fuel source. A portion of the electricity from the 43.7 megawatt generator would be used to cool and heat the 50-acre greenhouse, while most of the power output would be sold to Progress Energy or Duke Energy. The generator would be supplemented by solar thermal water heating.
But GrowGreen does has not yet signed a contract with either electric utility, and it has not finalized financing for the $300 million project. The company will also need to get an air emissions permit from the Division of Air Quality at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
GrowGreen execs won’t reveal hints about what areas of the state they’re considering except to say it’s somewhere in the Piedmont. The company needs at least 300 acres for the project, said CEO Bradley Nixon, and conducted soil testing Thursday at one of the sites.
North Carolina was picked for development because of the state’s agricultural heritage and infrastructure. GrowGreen had seriously considered Georgia, too, but that state lacks a renewable energy law and doesn’t require utilities to buy green energy, so GrowGreen looked here, attracted by a ready market for renewable resources such as solar, wind and biomass.
Because North Carolina ended up being the only state in contention, GrowGreen won’t be able to qualify for the state’s lucrative job-creation grants under the One North Carolina or Job Development Investment Grant programs, which is just as well as far as Nixon is concerned.
“We really didn’t want to play that game,” he said. “For God’s sake, the whole country is really suffering right now.”
Several of the company’s principals and consultants are based in the Triangle, including Raleigh architect Gary Bailey and Clayton consultant Joe Magno. Nixon, based in Colorado, might relocate here as the company expands, he said.