EcoComplex development continues

County officials and workers are putting the “finishing touches” on the new facility that is turning waste into energy. 

Jack Chandler, assistant director for Catawba County Utilities and Engineering, said development to the Catawba County Regional EcoComplex and Resource Recovery Facility is continuing and going to plan. 

The EcoComplex, located on Rocky Ford Road in Newton next to the Blackburn Landfill, uses county waste to create methane gas. The facility uses wells and a vacuum system to extract the methane gas, which is then forced into an internal-combustion engine and used to create energy.

Chandler added that three 1-megawatt generators have been producing about 3 megawatts an hour burning methane gas.

“We think it’s a cleaner burning gas,” he said. 

Barry Edwards, Catawba County Utilities and Engineering director, said the EcoComplex produces enough energy to power about 1,500 homes.
Though the “heart” of the EcoComplex is its trash to energy production, the complex has or will have many more components, which include a bio-diesel research facility that will use fuel produced from crops grown at the Blackburn Landfill. 

“We are going to be growing crops in the buffer areas around the complex and use the crops to make bio-diesel,” Chandler said. 

The bio-diesel research facility is in partnership with Appalachian State University, one of the six universities the complex is connected to. 

Other impending or developing components of the EcoComplex include:

A Biosolids (Sludge) Processing Facility that will replace the existing Regional Sludge Management Facility currently located in the Fairgrove Business Park. The new facility will have the capacity to serve the wastewater sludge management needs of Catawba County and the Unifour region for about 20 years.

Bioenergy Facility that will use sawdust, ground wood particle byproducts and biomaterials from Gregory Wood Products, Pallet One and the county to generate electricity, steam and heat energy.

The Bio-Energy Facility will house a newly constructed wood-fired gasifier and steam production plant that is expected to produce 3 megawatt hours of electricity and 15,000 pounds of steam per hour gross. A natural gas fired boiler, with similar steam output, will serve as a backup to the main wood-fired steam production plant.