Enviva breaks ground

Published 4:29 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2012

From left, Southampton County supervisors Dr. Alan Edwards and Dallas Jones, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Enviva Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Keppler, Beale Carter and Warren Beale Jr. break ground for Enviva Courtland Pellets on Wednesday. -- GWEN ALBERS/TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—The 10-year, sometimes controversial development of the Turner Tract Industrial Park paid off Wednesday.

With a shovel in hand, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and other officials dug up the first ceremonial scoops of dirt to build Enviva Pellets Southampton.

“Thanks for your vision,” Bolling told Southampton County officials, who developed the Rose Valley Road industrial park where Enviva will spend $91 million to build a wood pellet plant that will create 72 jobs.

“Without this type of great park to offer, you’re not in the game,” Bolling told the 125 people attending the ceremony.

“We would not be here without that vision,” added John Keppler, chairman and chief executive officer for Enviva.

Construction of the plant is expected to take 18 months to complete, with a startup planned for late 2013.

Based in Bethesda, Md., Enviva is the world’s largest producer of solid biomass fuels whose primary customer is Europe’s utility companies attempting to reduce their carbon footprint.

“It (wood pellets) helps extend the lives of their power plants and reduces emissions for cleaner air, cleaner water and healthier communities,” Keppler said.

The overseas market for pellets is growing.

“Europe is making substantial investments into converting power plants for what we are making here,” Keppler said. “The future is bright.”

He credited Virginia’s longstanding commitment to its forest products, its abundant resources and a strong labor force.

“The plant will produce 500,000 metric tons of pellets annually,” Keppler said. “We enter into long-term agreements with the utilities.”

Todd Haymore, secretary of Agriculture and Forestry for Virginia, noted that the state is blessed for its 16 million acres of forests, which cover 63 percent of the state.

“You’re talking about a valuable, sustainable resource,” Haymore said.

Southampton County Supervisor Dr. Alan Edwards noted that the county “did it right” by having a place for Enviva to go.

“We got a first-class company with integrity, leadership and a heck of a future.” Edwards said.