SEBRING -- The public got an update on Tuesday on the progress of one of the two ethanol plants coming to Highlands County.

Bradley Krohn, manager of Highlands EnviroFuels LLC., presented an project status report to the County Commissioners on building a sugar cane-based ethanol plant.

The new plant site has been secured at the southwest corner of U.S. 27 and S.R. 70 in south Highlands County.

"We have been steadily progressing on the project over the last three years, now it's time for an update," Krohn explained.

"The benefits of the project will maintain the ag base in Highlands County. It will give farmers an option to not to sell out to conservation. This project is core for the Florida Farm to Fuel Program," Krohn said.

Krohn said that the $170 million plant would infuse about $57 million into the county's GDP (gross domestic product) yearly and add $43 million to annual household incomes.

Directly, the new 36 million gallon-per-year ethanol plant is projected to produce about 60 jobs, but will contribute to 900 jobs indirectly through the use of local vendors for products and services, according to Krohn.

"This is a win-win for the county," Krohn said.

Ethanol production is based on a Brazilian model that uses the juice of the plant to create the ethanol and the stalk and leaves to fuel steam boilers to create the electricity needed to run the plant.

The excess electricity, about 30 megawatts per year, will be sold back to Progress Energy.

More than 18,500 acres have been contracted from regional farmers so far, and the farmers will share in the profit of the plant through the rise and fall of ethanol pricing.

As the price of ethanol goes up, the farmers get a higher price for the feedstock and as the price goes down the farmers get a lower price for their feedstock, Krohn said.

"The farmers really like the pricing method, it makes them feel that they are part of the entire project. It is sort of a profit sharing plan," Krohn said.

Krohn also said that county can support two ethanol plants, referring to the plans for the Vercipia project east on S.R. 70 on the Lykes Brothers Ranch.

"The next steps are to complete site permitting, financing and detailed engineering. We are looking at beginning construction the first half of next year, that's the timeline," Krohn said.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection granted the project a Prevention of Significant Deterioration Air Construction Permit last week, and Krohn said they were now seeking the site and stormwater permits.

Questions arose form the audience about the amount of water the plant would use, approximately 200,000 gallons per day, but Commission Chair Barbara Stewart clarified the consumption amounts.

"That's really not a lot of water. It's about 700 households per day," Stewart said.

Krohn said the permit was for the intermediate aquifer and that the plant would recycle a large amount of its water usage.

The building of the plant will take approximately 18 months to finish, Krohn said.

source: newssun

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