Proposed NOVI plant prompts community meetings

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

January 10, 2014

With the prospect of an organic waste-fueled power plant locating to Clinton, members of the community surrounding the site on Industrial Drive are rallying in opposition.

NOVI Carolina Digester I LLC’s is attempting to locate at a 41-acre tract of land off Industrial Drive, Clinton, within the Sampson Southeast Business Center. A conditional use request by NOVI for the plant to be located at that site, owned by the Clinton 100 Committee, was tabled by the City Council last month and will be considered further at its Feb. 4 regular meeting.

NOVI proposes to develop and construct a 4.3 megawatt electric power generation plant that digests organic waste — a variety of agriculture and food waste would be used as feedstock — into bio-methane, which fuels engine-generators to generate the renewable energy.

“A lot of people in our community have no idea what’s going on,” said Brandon Holland, a resident of Kristin Drive, which bumps up to the proposed site. “They’re not hearing it from anybody else. We’ll give them the information (from last month’s public hearing) and stuff that we’ve found, and let them make their own decision.”

An information meeting at a home on Cedar View Drive last Sunday saw nearly 50 people in attendance. Another is scheduled for this Sunday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m. It will be held at the Cedar View Drive home of Brian Harrington, the first house on the right.

“We’re hoping for at least as many (as the first meeting),” said Holland, “hopefully many more.”

Leaders of big-name local industries DuBose and Schindler, which are also Industrial Drive tenants, have come out in opposition to the facility, as have those residents in the surrounding communities. Noise, traffic and odor coming from transporting and dropping off organic waste are chief among their concerns, noting that property values could decrease and future industrial prospects would be scared off.

Residents in neighborhoods including Nathan Dudley Road, Cedar View Lane, Cedar Lake Lane, Kristin Drive and Lesley Drive, said they did not have a problem with the technology or the facility itself, but questioned the chosen location for those reasons.

In response to those concerns, NOVI Energy President Anand Gangadharan at the Council’s Dec. 17 public hearing detailed the completely enclosed transportation and delivery process, and the many steps taken to keep vehicles, the facility and the community free of any leaked waste.

Angela Brewer of Kristin Drive was one of about a dozen people, including Holland and others, who shared concerns about NOVI last month.

“This proposed site would literally be in my backyard,” said Brewer, who raised concerns of odor. “I know this is green energy and it’s supposed to be organic products, but I’m very concerned about the environmental and health risks to our children. I know you have some trees, but it’s still in my backyard.”

She said a NOVI plant in Fremont, Mich., which would serve as the prototype for the Clinton plant, is new and the long-term health and environmental effects are simply not known.

“We just feel that’s not the proper place for this type of facility,” said Beverly Best, a resident of Nathan Dudley Road. “It just seems like a facility like this should be in a more secluded area since there are noted drawbacks from renewable energy sources. I just feel like this kind of facility cannot have a positive impact in this community.”

Holland said during last month’s public hearing that many in Sampson County have a vested interest in the hog industry. He said his main concern was disease that could be presented through the transporting of dead animals, notably hogs, through the city, something that might pose a danger to citizens and businesses.

Gangadharan said he felt the proposed Clinton plant would be a model facility, a good corporate citizen and a source of pride in the community, serving as a viable solution to a waste transportation process that already takes place every day in Sampson and surrounding counties.

“Given some time, we will prove ourselves,” he said last month.

The Clinton plant would take 14 months to construct and, once up and running, would produce 4.3 megawatts of renewable electricity, if it is approved. Between 12-20 jobs would be created with the plant’s construction and the wooded area, about 300 feet of trees, would be left alone and the facility would likely use less than half of the 41 acres, leaving a large buffer, Gangadharan noted.

While there was much opposition at the City Council meeting last month, the Sampson County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved continuing negotiations with NOVI regarding an incentives agreement that would extend grantbacks in return for NOVI’s $22 million taxable investment.

The electricity produced at the plant would be sold as part of a long-term power purchase agreement with Duke Energy, a two decade-long contract.

“This is the type of project that is long term,” said economic developer John Swope. “This is not something that is here and gone. This is something that would be longstanding in the Sampson County and Clinton area.”

There have been many petitions handed out already in order to collect signatures opposing NOVI. Holland said it is not known whether there will be any more meetings past Sunday’s but, should additional information come to light, one will be scheduled. Right now, it is a matter of preparing to voice concerns and get questions answered.

“We’re trying to gear up for the February meeting,” Holland said.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at