Metro Council to vote on anaerobic digester land use on Monday

According to this map provided by 3 Rivers Energy, the proposed anaerobic digester will be located on land adjacent to the Jack Daniel Distillery off Goodbranch Road. (Image Provided)

LYNCHBURG, Tenn. — It’s how the Jack Daniel’s Distillery plans to address an excess of spent distiller grains otherwise known as slop as it doubles capacity in the next few years to keep up with growing global demand for Tennessee whiskey. On Monday night, there will be a public hearing to address comments both for and against the first step in bringing an anaerobic digester to Lynchburg.

That first step includes adding a land use exception to the Metro Zoning Ordinances allowing a “distillery by-products processing facility” on land zoned A1 (agricultural). It’s a move the Metro Planning Commission recommended to the Metro Council during their June meeting. During that meeting, the Metro Council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of that zoning ordinance change. It must pass three separate readings.

On May 26, Jack Daniel’s management hosted a public forum to address the continuation of the the distillery’s “slop” program and how the anaerobic digester played a part. {To read our full coverage of that meeting, click here.} At that meeting, Jack Daniel’s General Manager Larry Combs explained that the distillery will continue to offer slop to existing customers at the current capacity until the proposed anaerobic digester plant comes online in around 18 months. Then capacity will be at about half that amount until JD II comes online in 2024.

“The digester needs a minimum amount just to function, so once it comes online the total available stillage will decrease temporarily. Once JD II comes online, we’ll bring that level back up to about 70 percent of what it is today.”

During the June meeting, members of 3 Rivers Energy Partners appeared before the Metro Council to address any questions or concerns. During that meeting, 3 Rivers Energy’s David Johnson explained that the proposed anaerobic digester would help turn the estimated 200 million gallons of spent distiller grains into renewable energy in the form of natural gas as well as fertilizer that will be available to local farmers.

It’s a point Combs also made during the Slop Haulers Meeting on May 26. Everyday that the Jack Daniel’s Distillery produces whiskey, it also produces around 500,000 gallons of slop. Even at current rates, local farmers don’t utilize all the available spent distiller grains and as capacity increase the distillery wanted a solution that would be not only environmentally friendly but also would add something back to the local economy.

“We thought the better long term solution would be an anaerobic digester that produces biogas and fertilizer. It both supports the distillery growth, reduces our energy output, and allows us to support local farmers in a different way,” Combs told The Times prior to the May meeting.

The Times acquired a copy of the 3 Rivers Energy’s Metro Council presentation prior to Monday night’s meeting. In it, officials explain that all processing at the anaerobic digester will take place inside an enclosed environment thus ensuring “odors do not escape into the community and animals (such as rodents and birds) are not attracted to the facility.”

The presentation also states that the proposed facility will be located on property adjacent to the distillery so the “feed stock can be piped directly from the distillery to the digester.”

According to 3 Rivers Energy, the volume of fertilizer generated by the Lynchburg anaerobic digester could provide most the the plant nutrients necessary for over 25,000 acres of corn or other agricultural crop such as hay. They anticipate distributing up to 200 million gallons of fertilizer annually to area farmers at a “significant discount.”

There will be a public hearing on Monday to allow public comments both for and against the project. That meeting will take place at 6:15 p.m. just prior to the regular July Metro Council meeting, which takes place at the Lynchburg Legion Building located near the Lynchburg Pool off Highway 129. For those who can not attend in person, The Times will live blog the meeting as it happens on our Facebook page. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only locally-owned newspaper in Lynchburg and also the only woman-owned newspaper in Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}