Incentives attract renewable energy firm

Chris Michlewicz
Posted

Financial incentives have yet again lured a growing corporation to Douglas County, this time it’s one that’s poised to lead the way in renewable-energy power generation.

Community Power Corporation plans to lease a 50,400 square-foot manufacturing and research and development facility near E-470 and Chambers Road in the Compark Business Campus. If approved by Douglas County, the building will be twice the size of its Littleton hub, which would close in mid-2013.

The company plans to add 45 new jobs and move roughly 50 employees over from Littleton. The majority of the new full-time positions will be engineering-related with an average salary of nearly $68,700, according to planning documents.

The prospect of adding jobs and having an up-and-coming renewable energy firm within its boundaries convinced Douglas County’s commissioners to approve around $40,000 in development fee waivers Sept. 11. The county board will also consider a request for a business personal property tax rebate worth $20,000 over five years around the time the company is preparing to move into its build-to-suit facility, said Becky Nelson, economic developer for Douglas County.

In an interview from his Alaska office, where Community Power Corporation’s parent company, Afognak Native Corporation, is based, external relations manager Gerad Godfrey spoke excitedly about the company’s groundbreaking work in the renewable energy field.

Community Power Corporation manufactures a biomass-fueled power generation unit called BioMax, which Godfrey says are self-contained renewable energy machines the size of five 20-foot shipping containers.

“It allows us to take organic matter, dehydrate it, compress it and incinerate it and capture the energy and heat,” he said. The energy can be used for heating and air conditioning units, electricity and other means.

The portable biomass units have a wide-ranging feed stock: wood chips, walnut shells, synthetic matter, plant material, hay, and “a large category of waste, like cardboard, plastic bags,” Godfrey says. One northern California walnut farmer and BioMax owner was featured last month on CNN because he says he powers his entire operation with walnut shells. The story was later spoofed on Saturday Night Live.

Community Power Corporation is planning to diversify because engineers discovered through the research and development process another promising renewable energy product. Godfrey said they refined a process to convert gas to liquid, which enables them to capture both natural gas and energy from organic matter and convert them into synthetic diesel and aviation fuel. The firm has already conducted testing with the Defense Logistics Agency.

“If 50 percent of what we’re doing can be realized, it’s immense,” Godfrey said of the potential future impacts of CPC products.

He added that the high-grade “net-neutral” fuels are not the sole answer to weaning America off of fossil fuels, but said the use of organic and synthetic materials will supplement available means of generating energy. The technologies have great potential application in both the private and public sectors.

The move to northern Douglas County, an area that has added several medium- and large-size employers in recent months, was mostly due to the fee waivers and tax breaks, Godfrey said. Community Power Corporation was looking at sites in upstate New York, but was further swayed to stay in Colorado because of financial incentives offered by the state. The manufacturer entered into a seven-year lease with the property owner and plans to be operational by June 2013.

“What we’re doing has great potential, but we need a large-scale operation,” Godfrey said. “We decided that Douglas County would be the ideal place to locate.”

For more information about the company, visit www.gocpc.com.

 

Side note

Biomass-fueled renewable energy units are growing in popularity across the country, especially in areas where residents can qualify for renewable energy tax credits. The machines use a downdraft gasifier system that converts biomass to a low Btu syngas - sometimes referred to as “producer gas” - that consists of a mixture of energy gases including hydrogen, carbon monoxide and methane. The balance of the syngas is mostly nitrogen. The amount of ash waste is minimal.

By the numbers

Investment in facility: $4.5 million

New jobs: 45

Average salary of new jobs: $68,700

Building size: 50,400 square feet

Development fee waivers: $40,000

Business personal property tax rebate: $80,000