By Jean A. Flanagan
Moorefield Examiner –
The Hardy County Board of Zoning Appeals approved a variance requested by Eastern Mountain Pellet Co., LLC, which paves the way for the construction of a $35 million commercial wood pellet manufacturing facility to be built on Cunningham Lane.
The BZA met on Tuesday, June 24.
The property, located at the intersection of Cunningham Lane and the South Branch Valley Railroad tracks, is owned by Betty and Renick Williams. It is zoned agricultural and production of forest products are permitted by right. The variance is for a height restriction, which says, “No structures shall exceed three stories or 40 feet in height, except that farm and utility structures may be built to any required heights.” (Hardy Count Zoning Ordinance §2-13)
Kirk Wilson of L & W Enterprises, Inc. and EMPC President and CEO Andrew Hammaker made the presentation to the BZA. L & W are the site preparation engineers.
The project will entail the manufacture of 600 tons per day of hardwood pellets to be exported to the United Kingdom and European Union.
Hammaker explained that the EU has instituted some stringent pollution control regulations, designed to reduce carbon dioxide emission from their coal-fired power plants. The pellets will be mixed with coal and/or burned independently to create electricity.
“The EU doesn’t have timber,” he said. “This probably won’t be an option for the U.S. because you have access to cheap natural gas.”
The facility consists of a log yard, debarker, chipper, dryer, pellet mill, storage silos, conveyors, rail loading and rail siding.
The process entails hardwood logs being delivered from Route 220 North and the Cunningham Lane “Y” to a concrete pad. They are fed into the debarker and go to the chipper. From the chipper the wood goes into the dryer.
“The bark removed from the logs is what fires the dryer,” Wilson said. “This is a sustainable, green operation.”
The chips are pressed in the pellet mill after drying and the pellets are stored in silos until loaded into rail cars.