Warsaw votes against NOVI; potential third request up in air

By Chris Berendt Staff Writer

April 11, 2014

WARSAW — NOVI Energy hit another roadblock in its pursuit to locate an anaerobic digester plant in this area, with the Warsaw Planning Commission voting against the proposed site request Thursday night in a split vote.

That request for NOVI Carolina Digester II, proposed for Bruce Costin Road, just outside West Park-Duplin County Business and Industry Center Industrial Park, was struck down in a 3-2 vote. The town’s code enforcement officer Ed Collins said the matter was initially going to be continued until next month so more information could be attained, and a more detailed site plan, could be received from the applicant.

“The applicant insisted on a vote rather than wait,” said Collins, saying the 3-2 vote meant the matter was “done.”

The vote by Warsaw officials came on the heels of NOVI’s April 1 withdrawal of a conditional use request to locate NOVI Carolina Digester I on a 40-acre tract in the Sampson Southeast Business Center in Clinton. NOVI officials subsequently released a statement saying they would continue to pursue a plant in eastern North Carolina.

NOVI’s proposed 4.3-megawatt power plant was to digest organic waste — specifically hog waste — into bio-methane, fueling engine-generators to produce renewable energy, similar to a 3-megawatt plant in Fremont, Mich. That Michigan plant is the nation’s first anaerobic digester. NOVI is still looking to establish its second.

“We want to be in Sampson and Duplin county because of the access to the hog waste. That’s critical for us,” Jim Zimmer, NOVI’s site manager for N.C. development projects, remarked last month.

The company has already signed two power purchase agreements with Duke Energy Progress that extend for 25 years, so at least two plants — a third in Sampson, Duplin or Bladen has also been floated as a possibility — are being pursued.

“We are very optimistic about finding a suitable location in the near future,” NOVI stated in a April 3 statement.

A public hearing on possible economic incentives related to the establishment of NOVI Carolina Digester III was opened, and quickly closed, during a Board of Commissioners meeting Monday as local officials said work continues to identify another Sampson site.

“We’re not prepared to bring to you more specific plans on the proposed project,” Sampson’s economic developer John Swope said at that meeting.

That third site is not yet determined and was expected to follow two other sites, one in Clinton and another in Warsaw. However, with the request for the Clinton site withdrawn and the Warsaw site request rebuffed, NOVI is back at square one.

“We’re continuing to work with NOVI Energy looking for potential sites in Sampson County,” Swope remarked Monday. “Hopefully we can come before you on a future date and give you a positive report about one or more sites.”

Sampson commissioner Albert Kirby told Swope he did not want to see that location be in one of Sampson’s two minority districts. Those districts, 4 and 5, cover the entire southern portion of Sampson and line the eastern edge.

“I just hope this site would not be in an African-American district,” Kirby said. “It would look really bad if that happened. I have to say that. It just won’t look good, and it will be even worse if some of the same people who were against it being placed at the (Sampson Southeast Business Center) now would be for it if it is in one of the minority districts.”

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at