Fleischmanns, Delaware, to begin surveying residents in February about whether they want their homes to be connected to a proposed municipally-controlled biomass power plant; proposed wood-burning facility could begin operating as early as late 2015

ONEONTA, New York , February 7, 2014 () – Residents of the Delaware County village of Fleischmanns will soon be getting surveyed on whether they want their homes to be connected to what would be a municipally controlled biomass plant fueled with wood products from local forests.

If there is a strong enough signal from village residents that they want to have their homes get thermal heat from an underground pipe running from the plant, the project will go forward, said Jim Waters, director of the Catskill Forest Association. If not, the proposal will die on the vine.

There are approximately 170 homes in the village of about 350 people. Waters said he hopes most of them will agree that participating in the biomass project will cut their heating bills, raise the profile of the community and keep local money in the local economy rather than having it go to fossil-fuel producers outside the region.

Waters said both state and federal agencies are keenly interested in promoting biomass as a sustainable form of energy and it is likely the village within the town of Middletown project could qualify for grants.

"This is really a good time for this to be happening," he said, noting the government interest in nurturing woody biomass as a sustainable form of energy.

There will also likely be a bond to help finance the plant.

The project has been on the drawing board for nearly three years.

"This is pretty much a win-win situation for everybody, except for maybe the people who drive the fuel trucks," Waters said. He suggested they could get jobs driving trucks hauling wood chips.

In what Waters called a best-case scenario, the biomass plant could begin operating as early as late 2015. If the process proves to be slower, it might not be completed until 2018.

By having a place to take their inferior wood that would have no value to a lumber yard, local foresters could have it hauled to the biomass plant.

"It will help them manage their forests," he said.

It has been estimated that heating costs could be eventually cut in half for those who participate in the system. Those who would prefer to stick with their current mode of heating their homes would not be compelled to join the biomass project, and would incur no costs as a result of their decision, Waters said.

About 30 local residents took a bus trip to a Connecticut school to visit a biomass plan in operation their and came away with a positive impression, he said.

The survey of local residents is expected to begin next month.

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