January 14, 2012

Sebago Farms plans massive greenhouse, algae biofuels facility in Maine

In an area of Maine generally known for its strip malls and big box stores, newcomer Sebago Farms plans to build a 1.7 million square foot mixed-use facility that will house hydroponic greenhouses, a fish farm, and an algae-based biofuels research area and employ up to 170 people.

The ambitious project — the size of about seven Walmart superstores — is the first venture of WNWN LLC (which stands for Win Win or Waste Not Want Not), owned by Arundel, Maine, businessman and retired school teacher John der Kinderen. Der Kinderen also is a principal in project planning and management at BioSynEnergy LLC, a Doylestown, Penn.-based company that describes itself as a team of worldwide, multi-disciplinary experts focused on refining waste streams into green revenue and jobs.

“This will have wide-ranging positive impacts on the town,” said Tom Bartell, director of economic development in Windham, Maine, the proposed project site. “But it will have a low impact on the environment and the aquifer because the nature of the project is self-contained and it recycles.” He added that the project is a shot in the arm for the business park where it is to be located, and it could bring in other businesses, as well as open up 170 new jobs ranging from unskilled to semi-skilled to highly technical.

News of the project, which was presented at a town planning board meeting on Monday, has created excitement among Bartell and others, but der Kinderen cautions that the project is still in initial stages and must first get state and local approvals. “We are committed to doing a project in Windham, but we don’t yet know the size and scope of the final build out,” he told Mass High Tech. “Many things can happen between now and construction.” If all proceeds as planned, building could start as early as this spring and produce could be available toward the end of the year.

Local officials have estimated that the project could be as big as the $105 million Thompsons Point hotel and convention center development in Portland. Der Kinderen said it is too early to talk about the price. “We don’t know the final configuration yet, but that is in the ballpark,” he said.

The aim is to build three greenhouses in phases that will include a demonstration greenhouse with algae for food and fuel. The goal is to have a local source for food and a development that offers high-tech jobs, he said. The site also aims to be environmentally friendly and to produce as little waste as possible .

Der Kinderen wouldn’t disclose the investment amount nor the names of the private investors, but did say that BioSynEnergy is a partner that will provide technology, planning and support for the Windham project. “BioSynEnergy has technologies, energy platforms, greenhouses and fish configurations,” he said. “They are an umbrella company that will sponsor similar projects to this throughout the United States.” Bartell added that HydroNov Inc. and Harnois Industries Inc., both of Canada, are to be involved in providing the greenhouses. Der Kinderen said he is interested in partnering with universities on technologies for the project.

A sketch of the plan was shown to the planning board, but environmental impacts, traffic, noise, vibration and other factors still need to be studied, Bartell said. Windham has a population of 17,000, and is known as a retail and services center for the Sebago Lake region.

Der Kinderen said the proposed 37-acre site was chosen based on a number of factors, including good groundwater, natural gas availability to run the plant and appropriate zoning. The location, at the upper end of Route 302, which leads to the western lakes and mountains of southern Maine and is about a half hour west of Portland, is a former gravel pit that has been converted for economic development.

The facility will generate its own power and process its own waste products. The energy will be generated by specialized genset machines that extract the maximum possible energy from the natural gas source, he said. Der Kinderen estimated that the site will be able to extract 94 percent of the energy, consisting of both electricity and heat. It will be used throughout the greenhouses for lighting, pumping, processing and temperature control. Plans call for the engine exhaust to be scrubbed clean and used inside the greenhouses for carbon dioxide fertilization of the vegetables.

The wastes from processing the fish and plants will be routed to a bioreactor that will reduce them to liquid form and, via biological digestion, transform them into methane gas and high-quality liquid fertilizer. The methane gas will be an additional energy source, and the fertilizer can be used in the greenhouses.

Original post available here.

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