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Waddington council mulls renewable energy plan

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WADDINGTON — The town is looking to tap into the renewable energy market.

At Monday’s Town Council meeting, renewable energy expert Roland Poirier proposed using five to seven acres on Whitehouse Bay to grow sorghum, a grain used for livestock fodder that can be converted into ethanol.

“The plant would bring a diverse amount of products that would generate enough profit to make it sustainable and put some people to work and step away from our need to rely on foreign oil,” Mr. Poirier said.

Mr. Poirier, who toured the area with Councilman Travis S. McKnight last week, said Whitehouse Bay’s proximity to the St. Lawrence River makes it an ideal place to grow the crop.

Unlike corn grown for ethanol, sorghum does not deplete food sources and is less taxing to the soil because it does not use the same amount of nitrogen, Mr. Poirier said.

Several areas, including Kenya and Israel, are harvesting the crop.

The town will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. June 20 to discuss leasing the land. Mr. Poirier said he would begin planting as soon as the lease is approved.

If the project is successful, Mr. Poirier said, it could be extended for several years and acres, employing several residents to cultivate the land.

“Worst-case scenario, if the ethanol part of it fails, there is still a grain byproduct that can be marketed and there is still energy from pelletizing the fibers that can be marketed,” Mr. Poirier said.

The sorghum project also could be a step toward a larger goal, said Supervisor Mark Scott.

Town officials are considering a partnership with Sustainable Power and Applied Research Community to develop a renewable energy research facility that would focus on power generation, energy efficiency and resource sustainability using the area’s natural resources at Whitehouse Bay.

“It’s just a concept at this point, but it’s the idea that this area down at Whitehouse Bay would be an area that would foster renewable projects with the intent of coming up with products that could be manufactured somewhere in the north country. It could be Massena, Ogdensburg or Potsdam; it doesn’t have to be Waddington,” Mr. Scott said.

The proposed research complex could range from 100,000 to 150,000 square feet, with up to 50 to 100 academic, professional and support personnel to be located on the site within three years of opening.

Long-term, high-paying jobs could come to the town, Mr. Scott said.

The town would have to seek up to $45,000 to $65,000 from the state to fund the plan.

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