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WNY Energy eyes $25 million addition to produce high-purity ethanol

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 September 2020 at 8:12 pm

SHELBY — Western New York Energy is considering a $25 million upgrade to its Bates Road plant for the company to produce high-purity ethanol.

That ethanol would be sold for beverage, pharmaceutical and industrial purposes, allowing the company to diversify its revenue stream and provide a supply with a known demand in the state, the company stated in an application to the Orleans County Planning Board and Town of Shelby.

The County Planning Board this evening voted in favor of the site plan and also a variance request for the project.

Tim Winters, company president and CEO, spoke with the board and said the ethanol plant was able to provide alcohol for sanitizer during the Covid crisis.

“That allowed us to keep the doors open and maintain the workforce,” he said.

The company has seen there is a proven need for higher-purity alcohol from natural fermentation, rather than synthetic processes, Winters said.

The company opened in Medina 13 years ago and produces about 60 million gallons of ethanol annually from about 20 million bushels of corn.

The expansion would allow the company to add at least eight full-time employees, and buy 5 to 10 percent more corn, Winters said.

The high-purity ethanol would be used for products “in dire need” and not available on a commercial scale, Winters told the Planning Board. The higher-grade ethanol will support sanitizer production, craft distilleries and other industrial businesses in NY, the company stated in the application.

Paul Hendel, a Planning Board member from Murray, said Western New York Energy has been a proven good business partner for the county and region. Hendel is also chairman of the Orleans Economic Development Agency.

“We’re fortunate to have them here in Western New York,” Hendel said.

County Legislator Ken DeRoller praised the company for pursuing an “amazing diversification.”

“You’re getting ahead of the curve,” DeRoller said.

The company is looking at about a 6,000-square foot addition to accommodate the new equipment and a building for loading and storage of high-purity ethanol.

WNY Energy anticipates the construction to be complete by September 2021.

The company needs a variance because the tallest distillation tower will be about 150 feet tall, above the town’s 35-foot maximum. However that isn’t as tall as some of the grain handling equipment at the plant.

The County Planning Board recommended Shelby approve the variance and also the site plan for the project.

In other action tonight, the Orleans County Planning Board:

Recommended the Town of Gaines Planning Board approve the site plan for David Oakley, owner of Woodside Granite Industries, to put a 50-by-60 addition on the south side of the current monument business. The property is located at the corner of of Ridge Road and Gaines Basin Road.

Oakley said the addition would mainly be used to store monuments.

Recommended the Town of Barre Planning Board approve a special use permit for Keeler Construction to add an electrical control building, which Keeler said would allow the company to remove temporary facilities, improving electrical safety.

The electrical control building would be built at 14120 West Lee Rd. at Barre Stone Products.

The cast-in-place concrete building will accommodate electrical starters and controls in a controlled atmosphere to protect equipment and improve safety for servicing equipment, Keeler said in the application. The building will allow Keeler to remove trailers with motor controllers, starters and generators no longer being used. The generators have been replaced with a service from National Grid.

Recommended the Town of Clarendon approve revisions to the zoning ordinance to allow for large-scale solar and battery energy storage systems for the projects.

Supported the site plan and special use permit request by Kerri and Cole Glover to operate wedding and events venue, and a bed and breakfast at 13800 West County House Rd. in Albion at the former Pillars. The couple doesn’t intend to run a separate bed and breakfast business but wants to make that option available for wedding parties.

The new business would be known as Maison Albion. They want to expand the parking at the site.

Voted in support of a special use permit for a recreational pond in the Town of Ridgeway. Steven Miller wants to build the 40,000-square-foot pond at 10749 Ridge Rd.

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