ELLSWORTH — Plans are moving forward for a new $69-million trash-to-biogas plant that will service more than 115 communities — many in Hancock County — and which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2018.
The 144,000-square-foot plant to be built and operated by Fiberight LLC in Hampden is expected to come to a financial close with its investors in June, according to Fiberight owner Craig Stuart-Paul.
Also, the board of the Municipal Review Committee (MRC) voted April 26 to purchase the land on which the plant will sit.
More than 100 of MRC’s 187 member towns and cities have agreed to haul their trash to the Fiberight facility beginning in 2018.
The Fiberight plant is designed to handle 140,000 tons of waste each year.
That means those municipalities will be ending their contracts with the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. (PERC) in Orrington.
Stuart-Paul said May 5 that everything is proceeding on schedule for a financial closing in June.
“That’s the current plan,” he said.
Greg Lounder, executive director of the MRC, said the board voted to buy the 90-acre property.
The MRC will essentially function as a landlord to Fiberight and has begun installing the infrastructure, such as a 100-foot roadway and water and sewer lines.
Lounder said the MRC estimated it would cost $5 million to buy the land and put in the road and infrastructure.
The funds are being drawn from reserves as well as tipping fees and stabilization money paid over the years to MRC member towns and cities by PERC.
Tipping fees are what a facility charges municipalities per ton for disposing of communities’ solid waste.
Most recently, Fiberight was approved for $46 million in conduit bonds that will be funneled through the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME).
Under the decision issued April 4, Fiberight will be allowed to borrow $45 million from banking entities but will be exempt from federal tax.
That exemption from the federal tax, according to FAME, makes a business a more attractive customer to entities that could provide loans.
Neither FAME nor taxpayers will be held liable for the bond.
MRC’s board began looking for a trash disposal alternative in advance of a federal change in what Emera Maine pays for the electricity generated by PERC when it burns solid waste at its plant in Orrington.
Beginning next year, the higher-than-market rates the utility company has had to pay for the electrical power expire.
MRC said the change meant the tipping fees would be prohibitively high and the board sought a lower priced alternative.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued permits for the Fiberight plant in July 2016.