Since its Phase 1 opening in October of 2006, the Jackson County Green Energy Park (JCGEP), located in Dillsboro, has been benefiting the community with education, jobs, and environmentally sound methods of producing energy.
“That hill is about a nine acres landfill, it has about three quarters of a million tons of trash in it, we’ve capped it with five feet of clay, and drilled nine wellheads,” explained Carrie Blaskowski, Assistant Director.
With the methane gas that comes from the wellheads, she and Director Timm Muth are able to power a 7500 square feet greenhouse, a glass studio, and the only blacksmith studios in the world that are run off of methane. All of these are low rent with no extra cost for the fuel, giving employment opportunities to people who may not be able to afford starting their own business with the high cost of traditional studios.
In July, the glass blowing studios will be up and running. With space for only two tenants, WCU graduate student Tracy Kirchmann was selected by a jury panel to be one of those tenants. Kirchmann hopes to conduct classes as well as doing her thesis at the park, making her the first to do so.
Another Environmental Science student did research for the JCGEP on Anaerobic Digesters which create methane gas from food waste, allowing for additional renewable resources. Along with them, the JCGEP has worked with students of various other fields, such as construction management, and last year the park won the Service Learning Partner of the Year award.
According to the JCGEP’s website, the use of recycled methane as a fuel stops 222 tons of the gas from entering the local atmosphere, and offsets 550 tons of CO2 that would come from burning fossil fuels. That is comparable to, “Removing 916 vehicles off the road… planting 1,305 acres of forest… preventing the use of 11,104 barrels of oil, or… displacing the use of 521,870 gallons of gas.”
With its three prong approach to serve the community by economic development, environmental protection, and education, as well as future projects with renewable energy, the JCGEP is helping out the local area and WCU while being a leading innovator in its field.
(For questions or for a tour, contact the Jackson County Green Energy Park at (828) 631-0271.)