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February 6, 2014 Issue

Snow Days
North Star project seeks financing

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Snow Days


Reagan Thigpen and Carter Walden dodge buddies while sledding around the Wrens walking track last Wednesday morning, pulled behind a neighbor’s golf cart. Emma Kate and Jackson Hoffman work an icy hat for their first snowman. CJ Redfield tosses a snowball at Jaquavious Kellom.

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North Star project seeks financing

By Parish Howard
Editor/Publisher

While construction on the North Star Jefferson Biomass Generation Station has already begun, its developers are hoping to find low-interest financing through a government program designed for rural areas.

Jefferson County Development Authority officials say the U.S. Endowment For Forestry and Communities has committed 100 percent to finance the project and are looking to secure a Rural Utilities Service loan that would allow them to access lower interest rates.

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North Star developers have contracted with a company to prepare an environmental assessment in the hopes that its Wadley-based wood-fired plant will qualify for financial assistance through the government agency.

“Basically we’re looking for permanent financing through the USDA’s Rural Utility Service that would be for the life of the project,” said Carlton Owen, the president and CEO of the Endowment. “If this doesn’t work then we’re back to plan B with bonds and bank financing. The RUS offers better rates because that’s why they exist, to bring electrification to rural communities. Lower rates mean higher profits and that gives us more dollars to give back to the people of Jefferson County.”

Owen said the project’s original plan was to use this type of financing, but a former partner diverted from that plan for unknown reasons.

“The USDA is being very cooperative so far,” Owen said. “This is really all about maximizing the return for the citizens of Jefferson County. The whole reason why the Endowment got involved in this project at all was to keep forested areas in forests and support a rural community that was dependent on that forestry through jobs and a philanthropic project.”

The Endowment originally committed to fund 40 percent of the project and to reinvest 100 percent of the profits from their 40 percent share into the community where the project was located. Since then the Endowment has become much more involved.

“We’ve invested much more than we planned and all in an effort to honor our commitment to Jefferson County,” Owen said. “The bottom line is that we are dedicated to honoring our original commitment and are working now to secure the rest of the financing between the Endowment and an equity partner. The only thing that has changed is that other portion.”

Owen has said that the original estimated profit that would be reinvested in the community was somewhere north of $10 million over a 20 year period. A board with local representation was created to review ideas and propose suggestions on how these profits can best be used for the most impact in the lives of the people of Jefferson County. In April of last year Community Wealth Through Forestry held an enterprise expo at Jefferson County High School focused on how these funds could help break the cycle of poverty.

Last week a representative from Environmental Planning Strategies was in Jefferson County beginning work on the environmental assessment which will evaluate potential environmental impacts associated with construction and operation of the project.

Last week a representative from Environmental Planning Strategies was in Jefferson County beginning work on the environmental assessment that will evaluate potential environmental impacts associated with construction and operation of the project.

As a part of this assessment, RUS is seeking comments from people and entities who are likely to be impacted by the North Star project.

“Please include information on resources and issues of concern and identify the location of specific resources that should be assessed in the EA,” RUS has asked.

They will also take into account impact on historic properties.

All comments will be accepted through the close of business (4:30 p.m.) on Wednesday, Feb. 12.

Once the EA is available, comments will also be accepted on it.

In the meantime, all comments should be sent to Lauren McGee Rayburn, Environmental Scientist, USDA, Rural Utilities Service, lauren.mcgee@wdc.usda.gov or through a drop box available at the Jefferson County Commissioners Office at 217 East Broad Street, Louisville, GA 30434.

In the meantime, work has begun on the foundation for the power plant that will use 80 percent non-commercial wood waste from timber and sawmill operations and up to 20 percent shredded disposed tires (Tire Derived Fuel-TDF) to produce 25 megawatts of electricity contracted with Georgia Power.

Developers say that the detailed engineering is currently being done and key pieces for the plant, including the turbine, have already been purchased. Construction is tentatively scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2015 with the plant going into operation by Dec. 1 of that year.

For more project details see: http://usendowment.org/images/NSJ_Project_Overview.pdf










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