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November 27, 2014
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Tomatoes, fish and energy at the landfill

Michael Kaplan

By Fritz Mayer

The idea of tapping the gas created in the capped landfill in Monticello has been broached in the past, but this time around, the proposal is proposed as a part of a larger plan to transform the acreage around the landfill and the adjacent abandoned Apollo Plaza shopping mall into a use that can produce revenue for the county.

At a meeting at the government center on January 20, Don McCormick, president of Carbon Harvest Energy, said that his company would not only build a small power plant that would turn the gas created in the landfill into heat and electricity, but he also said that some part of that energy would be used to run a year-round 25- acre greenhouse and a 250,000 gallon aquaculture installation at the site.

The greenhouse would be used to raise 6700 tons of crops such as organic tomatoes and potatoes each year, and the aquaculture would be used to raise 150 tons of tilapia fish. The effluent from the fish operation, which is often treated as waste to be disposed of in other operations, would be used as fertilizer for the vegetables, and also used to create a type of algae-based fish food.

But perhaps the most interesting element of the project, from the point of view of the local agrarian economy, is that it would create a distribution hub for not only the products raised at the site, but also for produce and farm products created by small producers in the region.

Lawmaker David Sager asked if the operation specifically would benefit small farms in Sullivan County. Jeff Jones, the general manager o Vermont Hydroponic, which will partner with Carbon Harvest, said yes. He said the market created by the greenhouse will have a demand that will far exceed the amount the greenhouse will be able to deliver.

Carbon Harvest is already operating a similar facility in Brattleboro VT, and the one proposed for here is expected to result in 110 full time greenhouse “livable” jobs with benefits.

Moreover, said McCormick, there would be enough excess energy from the landfill to provide energy for other projects at the site, and the energy, which would qualify as 100 percent renewable, would be an attractive incentive for possible investors.

The general reaction among lawmakers to the proposal was positive, but there are significant questions to be answered before it could go forward.

To renovate or start from scratch
The power plant, greenhouse and aquaculture facility would be a small part of a larger development of the site, which by all accounts would feature large expanses of retail, and perhaps some entertainment elements such as a movie theater.