4 SKIES’ proposal for “Repurposing the GE Taylor Street Plant” offers tremendous economic value to the City of Fort Wayne and GE in terms of job creation and other economic benefits. Aside from the 500 – 600 jobs created during construction, there will be 300 – 400 fulltime jobs created on site to operate and maintain the project on an annual basis once the project’s facilities are completed. Of course, these numbers will need to be corroborated in the feasibility study, but, if direct employment and indirect employment figures are taken into consideration, these employment figures could easily double for a project of this scale.
Operation of the NG plant is expected to be outsourced to an O&M company that specializes in running thermal power plants for plant owners. Training of employees to operate the NG plant will be straightforward for the selected O&M company. The vertical farm operation will be more of a challenge given that most employees involved will likely be new to vertical farming and greenhouses.
Though there will be opportunities for unskilled labor there will also be specialized skillsets required to ensure a large-scale vertical farm operation functions smoothly. A detailed list of required jobs and training needed will be addressed in the feasibility study.
The scale of this project will pose some interesting challenges and opportunities. The challenge of course will be to carefully plan the project to be cost effective, efficient and safe, and to deliver it on time and on budget. Yet a project of this scale also represents a significant opportunity to explore new ideas and concepts through dedicated research, such as: studying the effects of CO2 on plant growth in the absence of natural sunlight using light emitting computer (LEC) technology; researching which types of food crops perform better in climate controlled vertical farms; exploring the benefits of indigenous plants and herbs in medicinal applications, examining algae growth and production techniques for use in CO2 sequestration and for use as an energy crop; and studying biofuel production methods using anaerobic digestion and enzymes deigned to improve production yields, and testing the use of different biofuels used in energy production using fuel cells and co-generation systems.
An R&D facility will undoubtedly attract world-class engineers, scientists and horticulturalists to work and study together which may lead to expanded knowledge and technologies needed to improve crop yields and food production under controlled conditions, something that may be necessary in the future to feed the world’s growing population which is already struggling to keep up.
Although natural gas in North America is seen by many as the answer to sustainable energy, because it is plentiful and burns cleaner and more efficiently than all other fossil fuels, it nonetheless discharges huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, as much as 345 kilograms per MWh. In fact, CO2 is arguably a leading cause of “global warming” and whether we choose to accept or ignore the science behind global warming the effects can be devastating if measures are not taken seriously to try to curb the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere. 4 SKIES’ solution calls for a 50 MW Natural Gas power plant to be coupled with a 50,705 tons/year vertical farm operation to absorb all of the CO2 from the NG plant. As Environmental Sustainability is one of the main tenets of the 4 SKIES concept, this goal will continue to be paramount.
Principal to 4 SKIES’ proposal for “Repurposing the GE Taylor Street Plant” is environmental sustainability. Environmental sustainability involves making decisions and taking actions that are in the interest of protecting the natural world, with particular emphasis on preserving the capability of the environment to support all life.
Underlining this project is the need to identify a workable solution to repurpose or replace a vacant and aging factory building which clearly has seen better days. It is, however, important that whatever solution is chosen it will need to strike a fine balance between delivering on its economic potential and preserving the environment.