SWACO Tries To Avoid Past Trash To Energy Mistakes

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Artist rendering of a proposed $300 million industrial park that will be built across the street from the Franklin County landfill.(Photo: SWACO)
Artist rendering of a proposed $300 million industrial park that will be built across the street from the Franklin County landfill.(Photo: SWACO)

The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio is about ready to launch a $300 million project to convert trash to energy. Backers say this new plan differs from Columbus’ ill-fated trash burning power plant of several decades ago.

The trash burning power plant on the city’s southside had a short lifespan of 11 years. It left a legacy of air pollution and public debt. SWACO Director Ron Mills says a new trash to cash project is different.

“In contrast to the trash-burning power plant in the early 1980s, SWACO has no public dollars involved in this project at all, zero.” Says Mills.

Doug Haughn
Team Gemini CFO, Doug Haughn, explains
business model of trash to energy facility
planned at the Franklin County Landfill.
Haughn addressed the Columbus Metropolitan
Club.(Photo: Kaeley Doyle/WOSU)

Instead, an Orlando, Florida firm, Team Gemini, will take the financial risk. Executive Doug Haughn says his company will invest up to $300-million dollars to build an industrial park across the street from the Franklin County landfill. Then, garbage will be diverted from the landfill. Metals will be recycled and plastics will be converted to oil to generate income for Team Gemini.

“This isn’t a trash-burning power plant at all. We’re pulling out the recyclables. Then we’re taking some of the other organic debris and putting them into sealed anaerobic digesters and that creates methane which is then cleanly burned into energy.”

Haughn says that energy will be used by businesses in the industrial park or sold. Long range plans call for his company to manage 35 acres of automated greenhouses that can grow organic food year-round. Plans include a a small fish farm.

“We make a little joke. We’ll be doing fish sandwiches, because we’ll be having tomatoes, lettuce and fish that will be coming out of the greenhouse. There you go, so we’re just missing the bread.” Says Haughn.

Haughn says the completion of the project on London-Groveport road will take up to four years. Haughn and Mills addressed the Columbus Metropolitan Club on Wednesday.

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