Demand for renewable energy by European utilities is driving job creation and investment in Southeastern North Carolina. In September, Bethesda, Md.-based Enviva Partners, LP, unveiled plans to build wood-pellet manufacturing facilities in Richmond and Sampson counties in a $214 million project that will utilize the region’s forestry resources.. The two production sites will create about160 permanent jobs by the end of 2017.
Enviva converts the by-products of saw timber into energy-intensive pellets used by power plants in Europe and other parts of the world.. The company, established in 2004, already operates North Carolinapelletizingplants in Bertie County and Northampton County, as well as facilities in Mississippi, Virginia and Belgium.
Enviva’shigh-density pellets fuel power generation as effectively as fossil fuels such as coal, but with a greatly reduced carbon footprint. Robert Hosford, an export specialist in the International Marketing Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, calls the transition by European utilities from coal to wood pellets “a game-changer for our forestry industry.”
Enviva’sRichmond County location, on N.C. 177 North, calls for $107 in capital investment. Kenneth Robinette, chairman of the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, credited his county’s success to persistence and pro-business attitude. “This is good news on many levels for Richmond County,” said Robinette, who also is a member of The Southeastern Partnership board of directors. The firm’s Sampson County site will be near the intersection of I-40 and NC Highway 403, directly employing 79 workers ataverage annual payof $39,000.