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VCEDA, Wise plan energy research facility

Steve Igo • Mar 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM

WISE — The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) will close a $2 million deal with the Wise County Industrial Development Authority on Friday for a new energy research center to be built near Lonesome Pine Airport.

Closing ceremonies for a $1.05 million grant and a $955,000 loan for the Appalachia America Energy Research Center will be held at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Wise County administration offices in the county courthouse.

The VCEDA board approved the deal in November. The Virginia Tobacco Commission has approved a funding package of $8 million to fund the balance of construction of a facility to be built at the Lonesome Pine Regional Business and Technology Park. The Wise County IDA will own and manage the facility.

On Thursday, VCEDA Executive Director Jonathan Belcher said the 25,000-square-foot structure will be a multi-tenant facility with one tenant, a nanotechnology company, already committed to move in. Groundbreaking is expected this summer.

“It will generally be an energy research and development facility that will be owned by the Industrial Development Authority,” Belcher said.

“However, there will be a nonprofit foundation formed to operate the facility. The foundation in cooperation with the IDA as owner of the building will seek out energy R&D projects and companies to do R&D projects. They will use the lab facilities and the common areas to pursue their projects,” Belcher said.

Officials expect clean coal technologies will be the major pursuit of research at the facility, at least early on. Belcher said nanotechnologies along those lines “actually use the very small particle levels of coal to remove impurities like sulfur and mercury to make a cleaner product.”

Technologies to convert coal to liquid fuels could also be applications that might be expected to be pursued at the facility, Belcher said.

“What we hope is that a company will locate there and come out with a technology that would be trend setting for the whole country, perhaps, and lead to an industry developed and grow not only locally, but also for the national energy situation,” he said. “If we can find a real good clean coal technology that has humongous positive benefits for the whole country, just as an example, that would not only help with our energy issues but also be a big help for our existing coal industry.”

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