BRATTLEBORO -- Carbon Harvest has been awarded a $325,000 loan through the Vermont Community Development Program, which will allow the company to complete its project near the Windham Solid Waste Management District property.
It has been almost three years since company officials began talking to the town about their plan to build a landfill gas-to-energy plant that includes a greenhouse and aquaculture facility.
Carbon Harvest President Don McCormick said this final loan will give the company capital to hire additional workers and weatherize its greenhouses for the winter.
"This money comes just at the right time," McCormick said Friday after accepting the loan from Gov. Peter Shumlin at a ceremony in Morristown. "It's very exciting. We've been waiting a long time for this."
Carbon Harvest calls its facility off of Old Ferry Road the first-in-the-nation integrated renewable energy-to-agriculture and algae feed and biodiesel project.
The company is already capturing gas from the waste district's capped landfill and producing energy. Waste heat from the methane power plant will heat the greenhouse and aquaculture facility.
The state money, which actually was awarded to the town of Brattleboro, which will loan the funds to Carbon Harvest, will help the company complete and weatherize the greenhouses.
Once all of the systems are in place, Carbon Harvest hopes to produce lettuce and basil to sell locally.
When the greenhouses are up and running, the company will create nine new, full-time, permanent positions.
McCormick said plans to establish an aquaculture facility to grow fish for consumption will be included in phase three of the project.
"This funding supports the work that will help us get our greenhouses ready for winter," McCormick said. "We are going to be able to produce local, green food for the community right when summer is ending and farms are shutting down."
The company has all of its designs and permits in place, McCormick said, and has just been waiting to hear about the pending community block grant.
Part of the money is going to be used to build a conference center to allow the company to lead educational seminars and bring crowds in to tour the facility and lead classes on how the systems work.
"It is all going to happen very fast now," he said. "As soon as this money is available to us we are going to bring people in. It's very exciting."
He said there will be a grand opening at Carbon Harvest in the fall when all of the work has been completed.
Windham Solid Waste Management District Executive Director Bob Spencer said the systems at Carbon Harvest are an important part of the district's plans to prepare for the state's new solid waste rules, which go into effect in 2014.
Vermont is going to require towns to separate solid waste from the rest of the garbage and Brattleboro is moving ahead with its own compost program, which is starting this summer on a trial basis.
If Brattleboro moves ahead with a townwide compost program, Carbon Harvest will most likely be able to capture the gas released from the rotting food waste and produce energy
"There are definitely benefits to the district from what is happening at Carbon Harvest," Spencer said. "We're thrilled that the gas that will be coming from the food waste will be used to grow vegetables and fish in an environmentally responsible system. This is going to be a model for other communities and we're delighted to be a part of it."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.