Ethanol Project Picking Up Momentum

Plant OpeningsEthanolCompanies and CorporationsLocal GovernmentU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyDavid FisherPolitics

MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP - Imagine taking the site an old factory and turning it into something made for the future: producing ethanol, powered by the wind.

That's what's being proposed in Muskegon County and it's attracting so much attention for two simple reasons: jobs and alternative energy.

150 direct jobs and 200 spin-off jobs are on the verge of a project considered at the site of the old Zephyr Oil Company, a contaminated brownfield site. About a month ago they were approached about a 100-acre $80 million project.

The developer is former engineer Kris Mixell out of the Ann Arbor area who recently formed Full Circle Developments. He wants to build a wood-to-ethanol plant. The fuel, often made from corn, that many cars can run on.

"To stem some of the negative criticism about biofuels, powering it with a renewable source like wind, solar, geothermal," said Mixell.

They want to use the wind at the base of Muskegon Lake to power four utility-sized windmills, 80 meters tall.

Mixell wants to take advantage of local, state, and federal grants and tax breaks to help pay for it. Mixell's never coordinated a project like this but says he has investors and energy companies lined up and motivated.

"That apprehension always exists, a proposal is just that a proposal until something really starts happening the whole key about show me the money is always part of it," said Muskegon Township Community Development Director David Fisher.

There's a private meeting Wednesday in Muskegon: local government leaders, the power companies, and the property owners are all getting a presentation about the project.

Mixell says it's a perfect fit: jobs coming to an area that needs them.

"Whenever you start seeing these kinds of things align and the opportunity work with these communities and to bring something hopeful and positive there with the right amount of public and private partnerships, it's a great thing."

If everything goes smooth Mixell wants to get started on the turbines this year. The ethanol plant could take 3 to 4 years. The site is still in the process of an EPA cleanup.

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