Charlotte energy company plans swine-waste plants in eastern N.C.

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Clean energy developer Blue SphereCorp. has signed options to purchase two sites, roughly 20 acres each in Eastern North Carolina, where it intends to build swine-waste-to-energy plants. Blue Sphere is the developer and minority owner of the 5.2-megawatt food-waste-to-energy project on Johnson Road in Charlotte. That project is 95% complete and is slated to come on line by October. Beth Anne Clark, a project development manager with Blue Sphere, says the two projects that the Charlotte-based company is eying would be about three megawatts each — smaller than the Charlotte plant currently under construction. But she says the company is still deciding whether it will produce electricity at each site. Blue Sphere (OTCQB: BLSP) is talking to Duke Energy Progress about that possibility. The company may opt instead to produce only a clean biogas that can be used like natural gas. “We are looking at whether to produce a biogas from the feedstock of swine waste and food waste available to us,” says Clark, adding that the two sites have good access to natural gas pipelines, making that an option.

Third project

The first site is in the town of Wallace, which straddles Duplin and Pender counties north of Wilmington. Blue Sphere is not releasing the location of the second site for now. The company is also in negotiations for an option to purchase a site near Raleigh for a third swine-waste project. Clark says her company expects to close on the Wallace and Red Springs sites by the end of the year. The site in the Raleigh area may take a little longer, she says. Announcements on partners who will participate in the three projects will also be coming soon, she says.

Charlotte plant

Meanwhile, Blue Sphere's $27 million Charlotte project has finally gotten on track after bad weather and issues connecting to the Duke Energy Carolinas grid put it months behind schedule. “We expect to be live with electrons on the grid in October,” says David March, a managing partner with the project’s majority owner, Entropy Investment Management. The project had originally be slated for completion in December 2015. But an unusually wet winter slowed construction. Entropy faced a potential $500,000 penalty owed to Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) because the project was not completed within 60 days of the original Dec. 31 target. “But Duke has been a fabulous partner and very supportive of this project,” March says. “They essentially waived that penalty.”

Projects elsewhere

Now, having worked out issues with the grid connection, the project is on the cusp of becoming operational, March says. Blue Sphere is also building a $19 million project in Rhode Island with the same partners. In June, the company hired Daniel Schwab as vice president of business development. He is focusing on projects in California and the Northeastern United States, says Clark. Blue Sphere is a development stage company and has yet to turn a profit. Early this month, the company reported a net loss of $3.6 million, or 17 cents per share, for the second quarter. It has lost $7.2 million, or 35 cents, for the first six months of the year.