Saturday December 22, 2012

ZEKE WRIGHT

Staff Writer

BERLIN, N.Y. -- A local company specializing in renewable heat and energy was awarded more than half a million dollars through "round two" of a statewide economic development initiative.

"Thrilled and honored"

Grant recipients were announced this week as part of New York's Regional Economic Development Council Initiative, which was put in place last year as a "community-based, performance-driven" approach to supporting economic growth around the state according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office, which identified a total $738 million in development funds Wednesday.

The local regional council was awarded $50.3 million for 84 job-producing projects around the Capital Region, including $550,000 for an expansion at Green Renewable, Inc. in Berlin. "We're thrilled and honored," said company President Sean Gallivan, contacted Thursday. "It couldn't have come at a greater time," he added, saying the grant would allow the company greater financial leverage to expand operations and hiring beginning this February. The company was also notified this week of a substantial low-cost power allocation of 350kW through ReCharge NY, an economic development power program provided through the New York Power Authority.


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Green Renewable received priority funding through the Economic Development Council for a total $12 million improvement project for its biomass industrial park and clean energy distribution center off Route 22 in Berlin, which had previously been known as Hoosick River Hardwoods before its acquisition in 2011. The award will allow the company to better utilize wood forest material known as "biomass" for manufacture into renewable energy products like fuel chips and kiln-dried firewood, landscape supplies, and livestock bedding. The company's "Burn Rite" firewood comes bagged and meets state Department of Environmental Conservation specifications for invasive species control for use as campground firewood.

The project is estimated to add 35 jobs and includes the installation of two 275kW micro-steam turbine generators, a public natural gas fuel filling station, and product packing equipment and other infrastructure upgrades. Gallivan said the improvements would result in 80 percent better efficiency in terms of the company's kiln-dried products, and the new cogeneration biomass park is expected to generate about $3.5 million in new revenue. "Cogeneration" is a term for the use of excess heat created during the process of electrical generation. In Berlin, steam turbines will produce power and also steam-dry forestry products.

Without the development funds, Gallivan said the project would have proceeded at a slower pace, "and/or not at all."

The total improvement project is expected to take two years, although initial job hiring can begin early next year along with immediate upgrades to packaging processes, according to Gallivan.

Gallivan said he believed in the council's private-public partnership, championed by Cuomo, U.S. Representative Chris Gibson, and Rensselaer County officials, as a way to create jobs and support growth and the renewable energy industry.

"Competitiveness ... is our main concern," he said. In a release Gallivan called the announcements indication the state was investing in regional high-tech companies "and helping us to generate new jobs, cleaner energy, and new, innovative products."

Gibson in the same written release applauded the council and Cuomo for choosing the Berlin company.

Among other local grant recipients, Hoosick Falls was awarded $24,500 through the council for an engineering report to evaluate the upgrade and replacement of a sanitary sewer main and at least three manholes in the village.