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Energy plant could bring 200 jobs

LUMBERTON -- Mar 1 - McClatchy-Tribune Content Agency, LLC - Bob Shiles The Robesonian, Lumberton, N.C.
Released On 3/1/2016


    A coal-fired electrical station in Lumberton has been reopened as a renewable energy plant that could create as many as 200 jobs.

    Georgia Renewable Power LLC is producing energy at the generating station on Hestertown Road formerly owned by Cogentrix.

    In an announcement by Dave Shaffer, chief operating officer and president of Georgia Renewable Power, his company's subsidiary, North Carolina Renewable Power -Lumberton LLC, has renovated the former 35 MW coal-fired electrical generating station and has "re-powered it to be a highly-efficient Combined Heat and Power plant that burns 100 percent renewable fuel."

    The plant is already generating power and sending it to Duke Energy, Shaffer said.

    "This is a great investment for the county," Robeson County Manager Ricky Harris said. "These are great paying jobs."

    According to the company's announcement, GRP has invested more than $50 million in the plant with an additional $60 million to be invested in additional modifications. When finished in the spring of 2017, the plant will produce 25 megawatts of electrical power as well as an "enhanced wood fuel product" for export to Ireland and other European nations, the company statement says.

    The plant currently employees about 25 people and when completed will provide more than 30 direct jobs, according to the statement. The total number of local jobs will eventually jump to almost 200 when those associated with transportation of fuel to the plant and the harvesting of timber for the plant's fuel production operations are added in.

    "This project is really big," said Greg Cummings, Robeson County's economic developer. "These jobs average $30,000 and maybe more."

    Cummings said the plant will serve four functions: generating power that will be sold to Duke Power; producing fertilizer from the ash remains of the wood and chicken manure used to fuel the plant; producing the wood fuel product that will be shipped to Europe; and making potting soil.

    Cummings said that he has been working with Georgia Renewable Power officials to bring the company to Robeson County for six years. The company had looked at sites in Virginia, South Carolina, and other areas of North Carolina before selecting the Lumberton site to do business, he said.

    Cummings said the company has been working to upgrade the plant for about six months. The site had been "dormant" for eight to 10 years.

    "This is just another positive step in economic development," Wayne Horne, Lumberton's city manager, said Monday. "It's creating jobs that were lost during the recession and adding about $110 million to the county's tax volume."

    The plant is located in the city's extra-territorial jurisdiction, meaning it will pay taxes to the county, not the city.

    Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.


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