The Union Recorder

February 21, 2013

Central State redevelopment discusses green energy

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Central State Hospital Local Redevelopment Authority (CSHLRA) chair Quay Fuller urged community partners to remain with the board for the long haul. In seven months, the authority has credible ideas and concrete movement to advance job creation, education and economic development goals.

CSHLRA's monthly board meeting addressed green energy and the Craig Center Wednesday.

Executive director Mike Couch and City of Milledgeville's attorney Jimmy Jordan recently met with the deputy commission of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. They delivered the letter, signed by local and state government representatives, urging a pause from the imminent Craig Center closing.

“I think they are committed to closing the Craig Center Building, but what I heard was perhaps an opportunity,” Couch said.

Keeping the patients in Milledgeville community group home settings could be the best option. 

“For every four clients you can keep in Milledgeville that equates to 20 to 25 jobs. We've got to run this one as hard as we can. They know we are unified on this and at least need to have a conversation,” Couch said.

DBHDD requested a follow up meeting in 10 days.

Green Initiative Committee chair David Sinclair updated various project concepts with the community solar farm becoming the most immediately realistic.

A new entity, Solar Zones, LLC, will form a joint venture agreement with CSHLRA to complete a 125-acre solar farm. 

Clearing three empty Department of Corrections and several smaller workshop buildings makes way for the community solar panel farm, according to Sinclair.

Before any demolition or construction, the Georgia State Properties Commission has to pass on the property assets to the CSHLRA. Georgia Power must also grant the allocation through their Advanced Solar Initiative. 

BCH Sustainable Energy, LLC will apply to Georgia Power on behalf of Solar Zones.

The proposed allocation includes 1 megawatt growing to 20 megawatts over a five-year period. A single megawatt equals 3,500 panels costing $1.7 million.

Abundant solar energy grants are accessible at the federal level.

“This is relevant, real and resonates in Washington,” the executive director said.

If the Central State solar farm receives necessary approval, small job impact would result right away from building recycling. On sight solar panel assembly could create up to 10 jobs as well.

Solar isn't the only concept on the green committee's table.

Sinclair noted converting waste to energy by burning shredded municipal waste creates usable byproducts. Central State has the room and two old steam plant buildings with stacks in working order.

“There is no reason why we shouldn't look toward using those buildings to house the gasification systems,” Sinclair said.

The green energy chair said two 25-ton capacity FASTOX Gasification System furnaces are capable of dealing with city and Baldwin County waste.

Sinclair estimates diesel fuel production and electricity generator units could produce up to $4,000 a day paying back the potential investment price of $12 million.

“We are trying to produce a friendly system that would give us a by product. I don't want you to be afraid of these numbers,” the green energy chair said. “We've got to think out of the box. We want to become the green capital of Georgia.” 

In other authority news:

• Couch said the board is close to attaining a process through the Georgia State Properties Commission to lease Chapel 3, Jones 286 and the Wilkes buildings for intended suitors. Wilkes serves as a suitable interim place for the proposed DEA analytical laboratory until it grows to a larger CSH building.

• Through the end of February, the board spent $95,000 of its $124,000 City of Milledgeville allocated budget. Couch said CSHLRA is in good financial shape.

• The Bicycling Club of Milledgeville's April Fools Bike Ride kicks off March 30 in the Central State pecan grove. Z-97 and the Oconee River Greenway moved their Easter egg hunt to CSH that day also. 

• The board welcomed new member Johnny Grant. He is the Economic Development and Community Engagement Coordinator for Georgia College and will represent Gov. Nathan Deal's stake in authority goals.

• CSHLRA selected a firm to create a conceptual campus master plan. Once the contract is initiated, the first phase, costing $15,000, will be completed within 90 days, according to Couch.

• Georgia College professors of biology and environmental sciences, Dr. Kalina Monoylov and Dr. Sam Mutiti, have senior capstone students commissioned to publish biodiversity studies at Central State Hospital. Monoylov said interested faculty could expand student and community knowledge of the vast 1,900-acre campus's scientific diversity. The board is willing to partner with GC to provide future on-site lab and classroom space for education development.

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