10 May 2011

Area company entering the Third Frontier - Zanesville Times Recorder

NEWTON TOWNSHIP -- Alternative energy is starting to get more attention.

And with the influx of Third Frontier and federal stimulus funds, it's starting to help reshape Ohio's economy.


Quasar Energy, for example, received millions of dollars in assistance to build a test bed for its biogas process at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, which in turn aided development of the BioHio Research Center there.

That led to the construction of biogas plants along U.S. 22 near East Fultonham, then in Columbus.

Quasar uses anaerobic digesters to cook down biosolids, such as fruits and vegetables delivered by companies such as Wal-Mart. Bacteria break down the waste products and the methane gas produced is used to generate electricity.

"We aren't building biogas plants. We're building an industry," Quasar Energy President Mel Kurtz said. "Over the past five years, we have worked to transfer European anaerobic digestion technology by sourcing and engineering specialized components from local suppliers. Today, most of the components used in our systems are sourced within Ohio."

"As we continue to grow this industry across the United States, the demand will increase for these Ohio components."

That means jobs for people like Chase Smith and Chase Warne, former classmates at Maysville High School.

The two operate Quasar's Zanesville Energy plant, and their youth -- both are 20-year-olds -- goes hand-in-hand with an alternative energy sector in its infancy.

"This is the future right here," Smith said, while watching a load of feedstock being delivered to the plant. "I can't think of anything else I'd like to be doing than being in this business. This is where it's at. A lot of younger kids like me are looking into careers. We're looking forward to what it could be."

Smith pointed out only 15 percent of the electricity generated at the local plant is used to run the plant; the remainder is diverted to American Electric Power's grid.

"When we're running at about 500 kilowatt hours, I guess we can supply enough electricity to light 300 homes here in Muskingum County," he said.

In addition, construction of facilities such as the Zanesville Anaerobic Digester System directly impact more than 50 Ohio companies, said Quasar Spokesperson Caroline Henry. That includes component manufacturers, fabricators, suppliers and contractors.

"These projects create real jobs, not only at the site as plant operators, but also within Quasar and the Ohio companies we have partnered with to build this industry," she said.

It's also opening the door for potential new industries, Kurtz said.

"The real opportunity is the generation of motor vehicle fuel," he said. "Quasar has plans to install CNG (compressed natural gas) fueling stations at all of our systems, including a public access station in Zanesville."

Smith looks forward to that and more expansion at the Zanesville site.

"I think we'll have another digester here eventually," he said. "We've got about 100 acres out here we could develop. If we start getting more product delivered and demand goes, and the public becomes more aware of what a place like this can do, I think we'll keep expanding."

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