A wood pellet manufacturing plant has begun operations in DeKalb County with the goal of generating up to 116,000 tons of carbon-neutral energy a year to heat chicken houses.

The owner of Lee Energy Solutions, Davis Lee, said he expects the plant to be producing at full capacity next month. Lee Energy Solutions of Guntersville brought the plant in Crossville online last week.

Lee said the plant will employ 20 people, and another 35 to 40 jobs will be created at DeKalb Forest Products in supplying the plant with raw materials.

The $8 million factory includes a pellet dryer that’s fired by wood scraps from the pellet-making process. Lee said a hydroelectric dam provides electricity.

“To turn on the drier, we use about as much natural gas as you would to fire up your barbecue grill," Lee said. “And it stays on 24 hours a day, five to six days a week.”

He said it takes about the same amount of natural gas to turn on the dryer as is used to fire up a barbecue grill.

“Along with poultry growers who use wood pellet fired furnaces and homeowners who have wood-pellet burning stoves and/or furnaces, there is and will continue to be a growing demand by foreign countries committed to bio-mass sources of energy to help combat greenhouse gases,” Davis said. “Unlike all petroleum based energy sources, wood pellets are carbon neutral.”

Davis said with every 20 tons of pellets produced equating to 100 barrels of crude oil, an estimated $40.6 million annually would stay in the U.S.

“Having been a poultry grower, I truly recognize the need to have independence from the whims of international oil markets and the results they have on our oil costs here in the U.S.” Lee said.

Lee Energy Solutions is one of the Davis Lee Companies with corporate offices in Guntersville. For more, visit leeenergysolutions.com.

Ft. Payne Times-Journal