Residents, ReVenture officials discuss eco-industrial park, again

by Alan Hodge

About two dozen people showed up at the Gaston County Citizen’s Resource Center in Dallas to hear an update on the proposed ReVenture Park project last month.
The idea behind ReVenture Park is to take approximately 600 acres of land currently owned by Clariant on the Mecklenburg County side of the Catawba River, near Mount Holly, and convert it into a “green,” environmentally sustainable development. That proposal will include building educational facilities, reclaiming natural areas, a residential community, a four-acre solar panel field, wastewater treatment plant, and a possible 10 megawatt energy producing plant.
The presentation was given by one of the ReVenture planners, Dirk Johnston of Foresite Development.
“There’s a vision out there,” Johnston said of the project. “It’s more than just a power plant and old factory. It is opportunities to work together connecting people.”
Joining Johnston at the Sept. 1 meeting was environmental specialist David March of Belmont, who answered questions relating to the impact a possible incinerator at the ReVenture Park site might have on air quality.
March declared he has no direct connection with ReVenture Park project at this point and was invited to take part in the update meeting by event organizer Jim Burke of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.
Gary Mims with the Quality of Natural Resources Committee and ReVenture Park consultant Edna Chirico were also on the panel.
During his remarks, Johnston described ReVenture as an “eco-friendly industrial park”.
“It will generate over a thousand ‘green’ jobs and $900 million in investment,” Johnston said. “It will make Charlotte an energy capital.”
However, several people in attendance questioned the size of the proposed power producing facility planned for the site, the type of fuel it would use and the possible impact it would have on the environment.
“It will use post recycled paper or yard debris,” Johnston said. “The material is not burned, it’s cooked and would create a synthetic gas that heats a boiler to turn a turbine and produce electricity.”
March described the process as “gasification”.
“You cook trash with high heat and no air,” March said. “The trash comes apart. Larger molecules break down into smaller ones called syngas that can be burned in special generators to create electricity.”
Johnston went on to say that the power plant portion of ReVenture Park was in the preliminary stages.
“We have to have a power customer agreement first,” he said. “We cannot start without a buyer for the product. We don’t have the specifics of the power plant yet because we are talking about a concept.”
Nonetheless, several people at the meeting expressed concern, among them David Gupton, who said he was representing the Sierra Club.
“The Sierra Club is not opposed to the ReVenture Park project,” Gupton said. “Portions of it that will bring jobs are good. However, we are opposed to the gasification incinerator and will take legal action if necessary. We have little confidence they have the expertise to manage such a facility that will be right across the river from Pinewood Elementary School. We do not need another source of toxic emissions like an incinerator in this area.”
Gaston County Board of Commissioners Chairman Donnie Loftis attended the ReVenture update and asked about the dioxin level potential for the proposed power plant. March drew an interesting analogy on the point.
“There would be less dioxins from that plant than from one SUV,” he said.

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