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Ze-gen files paperwork for commercial waste-to-energy plant in Attleboro

Posted by Scott Kirsner  May 5, 2010 02:16 PM

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Ze-gen founder Bill Davis says his Boston company has filed permitting paperwork this week with the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency to build the start-up's first commercial-scale waste-to-energy facility in Attleboro. The company already operates a demonstration plant in New Bedford.

Davis says the new plant will take in industrial junk like carpeting, unrecyclable plastic, and railroad ties and turn it into syngas, a hydrogen and carbon monoxide mixture which can then be burned to generate electricity. (The company's process dumps the industrial waste into a cauldron of extremely hot molten copper to "gasify" it.) The Ze-gen plant, built in a former Texas Instruments facility, will be capable of handling up to 150 tons of waste a day, and the electricity it produces will serve the industrial park where it will be located, the Attleboro Corporate Campus. Davis says it will be capable of generating seven megawatts of continuous power (about enough for the park, whose tenants include Sensata Technologies), and also will provide heat that can be used to warm buildings and water on the campus.

Davis expects the plant will create about 100 construction jobs, and 20 full-time positions. But there are two big "ifs": if he can raise $15 million to build it, atop more than $20 million the company has raised thus far... and if he can handle environmental activists' concerns about emissions and get the plant permitted. His hope is that the plant could be up and running by the end of 2011. (But Ze-gen's initial goal for building a commercial-scale facility was late 2008, so this has been a long road.)

Ze-gen's investors include Flagship Ventures and the Massachusetts Technology Development Corp. locally, as well as the Oman-based Omaz Zawawi Establishment. The company has plans to formally announce the new facility on Monday.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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