Bill boosts hopes for manure-fueled power plant British firm wants to build facility on Delmarva

Poultry industry

September 11, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

A British company's hopes for building a poultry manure-fueled electric power plant on the Delmarva peninsula received a big boost yesterday when Sen. William V. Roth Jr., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced legislation that would give a tax break for such a project.

"This is a significant incentive for private industry to develop an environmentally sensitive solution to water pollution problems," Sherry Tucker, a U.S. representative of London-based Fibrowatt Ltd., said of Roth's bill which would give a 1.7-cent-per-kilowatt tax credit on a manure-fueled power plant.

Tucker said that if the bill is enacted, it would "kick start the technology" in the United States by contributing about $5 million a year to a plant's operating costs.

Fibrowatt has two plants operating in the poultry production region of eastern England. A third plant, in Theftford, England, is nearing completion.

The third plant, which will produce 38.5 megawatts of electricity (enough to serve a city of 50,000 people) will burn 500,000 tons of chicken manure a year -- about what is produced in Maryland each year.

"I am introducing this legislation in an effort to encourage the development of another environmentally friendly method of producing electricity, while at the same time tackling a thorny animal waste-disposal problem," said Roth, a Delaware Republican.

Scientists suspect that nutrient runoff from fields using chicken manure as fertilizer contributed to Pfiesteria outbreaks last year that forced the state to close portions of three Eastern Shore waterways.

The tax-break legislation is co-sponsored by seven other senators, including Maryland Democrats Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski.

Mona Miller, a spokeswoman for Mikulski, said the senator is a strong supporter of the legislation and of the power plant concept. "She sees it as a way of keeping the poultry industry growing and strong" by solving the problem of getting rid of manure, Miller said.

The legislation would amend the tax code, which allows a tax break for the production of electricity through the use of windmills.

Tucker said that Fibrowatt has joined Catamount Energy Corp. of Rutland, Vt., to form a U.S. corporation, Fibrowatt Inc.

She said the new company is beginning discussions with the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., the broiler trade association, about constructing a power plant in the region.

William Satterfield, executive director of the association, said that it would be premature to predict that a plant will be built in the Delmarva region, but he acknowledged that there is keen interest. Satterfield said he has picked up strong support from the trade group's officers, its poultry growers' committee and poultry companies with processing plants in Delmarva.

Pub Date: 9/11/98

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