Biodiesel Factory Project Needs Final $850K

Article by The Recorder 

Friday, May 8, 2015
(Published in print: Saturday, May 9, 2015)

The member-owned co-op that’s trying to build a $4.2 million biodiesel factory in the Greenfield Industrial Park is racing toward a June 1 deadline on construction bids to raise what it says is the final $850,000 for the project that has been in the works for more than 10 years.

Two-thirds of the Northeast Biodiesel factory, on a 26.5-acre Silvio Conte Drive site, is complete, and some of the 475 members of the Hatfield-based Co-op Power Energy Cooperative have stepped forward in the past month with $500,000 in new loan commitments toward the final $1.3 million in financing.

“Assembling the financing for Northeast Biodiesel from the ground up has been a long haul,” said Lynn Benander, chief operating officer of co-op. “This is a very serious moment for us ... But we’ve made tremendous progress in the past year and are ready to get the plant finished if we can clear this final hurdle in time.”

The co-op is appealing to its current members to dig deeper and hoping that new backers will join the co-op and contribute toward the remaining goal so it can meet its deadline to award bids that have come in for final work on the project. The co-op would love to sign up more members “who would like to see a locally owned manufacturing plant come back to Greenfield ... feeding the local economy,” said Benander.

If they miss the deadline, the project would be delayed yet again, costing thousands, because the contractors and a general manager the co-op has hired would move on to other projects.

“This is the first time we’ve known exactly how much we need to finish the job,” said Benander.

Co-op Power has raised and spent more than $2 million to date for the land, site work, foundation and building, installed tanks, equipment and a biodiesel processor. The group has received a building permit to complete construction. In the past few months, Co-op Power has hired a general manager and has completed final engineering designs and received construction bids. Once funds have been secured, final plans will be submitted to the town for the final permit, said Benander.

The facility, with a startup capacity of producing 5,000 gallons of biodiesel a day from used cooking oil, was originally projected to be ready for 2006.

The biodiesel can be used for heating as well as diesel-powered farm equipment, construction equipment and vehicles.

Once operational, it should be able to add a second processor within a year, for a total capacity of 3.5 million gallons a year, according to Benander, whose co-op is the majority owner of Northeast Biodiesel.

“It’s time to launch,” she said. “We have everything in place to get the plant finished and in production.”