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Trash may fuel growth of jobs, fish, vegetables in Keene

KEENE — Energy created by city trash could support a greenhouse and fish farm, creating 20 to 25 full-time jobs in the city, according to Keene’s Assistant Director of Public Works Duncan Watson.

The Keene Transfer Station and its full-scale recycling facility sits seven miles from downtown, near the border of Surry, and has been operating “off the grid” for more than a decade after the city bought a generator. It’s powered by methane gases from an old landfill on the property.

The city is looking to create a public-private partnership to add the aquaculture facility to further use the resources at the site, Watson said.

The transfer station only uses 190-kilowatts, at its peak, generated by the 250-kilowatt generator, Watson said.
The excess energy goes unused because the facility is too far from a three-phase power line, which would be required to hook into the public electric grid and sell the excess power to a power company.

Two years ago, the city received a $500,000 grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency Climate Showcase Communities program to explore different options for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.
The city settled on the aquaculture facility idea.

“We couldn’t find anything that proved to be economically feasible till this project came along,” Watson said. “It looks to be very promising, (producing) many, many thousands of pounds of produce in addition to many thousands of pounds of fish,” could be harvested from the proposed aquaculture facility each year.
The greenhouse would grow premium quality herbs such as basil or high-end salad mix that could be sold locally.

The easily grown and harvested tilapia fish would also be grown and sold locally, and the fish waste would make a perfect fertilizer for the plants, Watson said.
The project partner would lease the land from the city and take over the power-plant, to which a heat creating component would be added through the grant funds.

Watson said city officials don’t know yet if the project would generate any significant revenue for the city, but they are excited about creating jobs and taking advantage of the excess energy.

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