A Nevada firm's unique proposal to produce machinery that converts trash into energy will soon get out of the starting blocks, the company head said Tuesday.
Officials from Energy-Inc. have been talking about building a production facility in Elkhart County since August 2009. Earlier hoped-for production start dates have come and gone without action.
Now, Kim Kirkendall, Energy-Inc.'s chief executive officer, says production is on the cusp of beginning at an undisclosed Elkhart County location. The company has no choice but to start -- within a month, Kirkendall hopes -- because it has contracts to build the equipment.
"Clearly we've got orders and we've got to move very quickly on production," he said in a phone interview. A formal announcement should be coming "very soon."
Among other clients are EJE Recycling and Disposal, a Greenville, N.C., landfill operator, and a hog and chicken operation in North Carolina. There are additional customers in Indiana, Kirkendall said, but he wouldn't name them.
Energy-Inc.'s initial plans called for a $96 million facility here that would employ up to 500. But Kirkendall didn't mention any numbers Tuesday, only that he maintains the earlier vision, though operations would have to be scaled up before hitting that threshold.
He doesn't want " to get everybody excited," Kirkendall said.
The equipment Las Vegas-based Energy-Inc. produces would convert waste into energy via a process called gasification. That entails superheating material in the absence of oxygen -- thus creating minimal pollution -- and converting it into a synthetic gas. The firm says it can tap energy in all sorts of waste material, including old tires, household garbage, animal manure and medical waste.
Though bullish on Energy-Inc.'s planned production facility, parallel plans to launch a trash processing operation at the Elkhart County landfill remain sketchy. The company proposes converting the trash stream at the county-owned landfill into energy with its gasification technology, but the sides haven't been able to pin down an agreement.
"The landfill project's going nowhere," said Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder. "It's basically stopped."
Yoder remains skeptical Energy-Inc.'s equipment can handle the 350 to 400 tons of trash the landfill receives daily, for one thing. "It's our impression right now this is going to be a prototype test and I'm not sure county government wants to get in that business," he said.
What's more, the county's own investigation indicates any deal with Energy-Inc. would end up costing the county more than it would save. As is, methane generated at the landfill helps heat the adjacent county jail, but Yoder said the county would have to pay Energy-Inc. for the energy source if it inks a deal with the firm.
Kirkendall said he's still interested in reaching an accord with the county and dismissed worries that the technology is experimental. The gasification technology works, he said, noting that Energy-Inc.'s deal with EJE Recycling ultimately calls for the company's machinery to process more waste there than generated at the Elkhart County landfill.
"This guinea pig stuff is nonsense," Kirkendall said, alluding to county officials' concerns that they'd be a test case on the use of Energy-Inc.'s technology. "It's bull hockey."
Energy-Inc. in October brought to Elkhart County a small-scale model of the machinery that would be used to process waste at the landfill, and invited county leaders to California to visit some operable plants.
"It's proven technology. Let's go forward here," said Kirkendall.