Displaying items by tag: green energy park

The Jackson County Green Energy Park has long been a topic of conversation in Jackson County — various boards of commissioners have debated whether it should be funded as much as it is, whether it should be funded more, whether it’s due for upgrades and renovations and improvements — but a team from Western Carolina University unveiled a new concept for the property during a March 5 joint meeting of the Jackson County Commissioners and Dillsboro Board of Aldermen. 

art frStepping into the blacksmithing studio at the Jackson County Green Energy Park in Dillsboro last Saturday, the continuous sound of hammers crashing down on metal echoed loudly out of the warehouse and into the high peaks of nearby mountains.

“And when I hear that hammering, I know we’re on the right track,” said Timm Muth, director of the GEP. “It’s a fantastic thing for us to see this, because this is what we’re here for — to give artists a place to work, to bring in people from around the community and far away, people who want to learn these skills.”

coverGet off the U.S. 74 exit for Dillsboro, descend the steep hill to the light, turn right for a 1-mile drive down Haywood Road and you’ll soon notice a bright-colored sign announcing that you’ve reached the turnoff for the Jackson County Green Energy Park.

art frStaring into a 2,250-degree furnace, Tadashi Torii sees his passion come to life.

“I’m really calm,” he said. “I try not to be bothered by anything else. I try to create my inner-peace area and then go from there and concentrate.”

fr greenenergyThe future of Jackson County’s Green Energy Park may depend on county commissioners doubling down.

art frWhat sounded like a jet engine echoed out of the building tucked away on the hill.

Peering into the large bay doors of the metal studio at the Jackson County Green Energy Park in Dillsboro, the booming noise is coming from a foundry in the corner that was used to turn metals into molten liquid for casting.

Learning the craft

In a classic case of the student becoming the teacher, Brock Martin signed up for his first blacksmithing class at the Jackson County Green Energy Park and began apprenticing soon after.

That was four years ago.

Now, he has been teaching classes at the park for a little more than year.

“I was always interested in it,” Martin said.

However, he did not quite know how to get started or if anyone really lived as a blacksmith anymore. After a high school teacher introduced him to a group of medieval re-enactors, he began seeking out more information about the art.

Martin, 23, blacksmiths as often as he can, teaching classes or creating custom pieces for sale. A resident of Hickory, near Asheville, he makes maille jewelry and armor, among other things.

Creating something from metal can be a long process.

Students start with a metal rod, which they regularly heat to up to 2,300˚F.

The progression of the heat turns the metal from yellow to dark brown to blue to black to red.

“Once it gets red, you can really start getting it to do what you want it to do,” said Martin.

Then, they begin working the metal with all variety of hammers — ones with flat, square heads, ones with spherical heads and ones with wedges heads. Each makes a different impression on the metal, works it in a different way and can be used to make a myriad of objects. It all hinges on the angle of the metal versus the angle of the hammer’s blow.

“It’s a misconception that you have to be strong,” Martin said.

Depending on the project, shaping and perfecting an inch-long piece of metal can take more than an hour. The rod must be reheated to make it more malleable, but students must watch that thinner portions don’t get too hot. Steel begins to melt at 2,500˚F.

To temper the heat, they must immerse the thin and more easily warmed part of the rod in water so they can continue to heat thicker portions of it.

Beginning blacksmithing classes are offered about once a month at the Jackson County Green Energy Park. The park is part of a county government initiative to use the old Dillsboro landfill gases as well as promote sustainability and various educational opportunities.

The beginner classes are “very gradual” compared to the intermediate level, Martin said.

Students move from station to station, trying to master individual skills before they tackle the end goal of actually creating something.

The class sizes are generally small, making them more hands on. At a recent intermediate class, three people independently worked on projects as Martin moved from workstation to workstation, offering help and tips.

Although the class was only their first or second attempt, the three burgeoning blacksmiths have all spent time working with their hands.

Todd Sagy, 48, diligently worked on a metal toilet paper holder. As a welder, metal work is second nature, but blacksmith permits more creativity.

Blacksmithing allows him to “take something that’s nothing and make something out of it,” Sagy said.

There is a fine line between working the metal too much and not enough, said Jesse Johnson, a 22-year-old construction worker.

Johnson spent much of his time twisting the small steel rods, with which he worked, to craft a necklace holder for his girl friend’s birthday.

“It’s not that bad, really, if you are used to working with tools,” Johnson said. “Mostly, it’s just a lot of fun.”

After taking his first class, Jesse got his twin brother Josh to join in as well. Both said they had been interested in learning to blacksmith for a while but actually decided to take a class after their mother took a glassblowing class at the energy park.

Four new landfill gas extraction wells are being drilled at the Green Energy Park in Jackson County, with the resulting energy helping to fuel craftspeople at work.

The Green Energy Park taps methane landfill gas to provide fuel for blacksmith forges and foundry, glassblowing studios, and greenhouses. Methane builds up as a byproduct of decomposing trash below ground.

The new wells to tap the landfill gas marks the first time that extensive excavation has been done at the landfill since the original dozen or so in 2005. Quality Drilling of St. Paris, Ohio, is boring the wells 70 feet deep.  

“It’s important because it will allow us to maximize our gas supply here at the GEP,” said Timm Muth, director of Green Energy Park. “We’ll be able to run all of our equipment at the same time and have more artists working at the GEP creating beautiful works of art which helps to attract tourists to Jackson County — a win-win for all of us.”

Jackson County is paying $33,000 for the new wells. Several of the original wells had seen decreasing gas flow, likely indicating that the high density polyethylene well casings had become clogged with sediment, and that new wells needed to be drilled to tap the continually generating gas coming from the landfill.

“If we didn’t drill these wells the landfill gas could migrate into the ground water,” Muth said.

The Jackson County Green Energy Park is an award winning, community-scale landfill gas project located in Dillsboro. www.jcgep.org.

A blower upgrade to the landfill gas system that helps power Jackson County’s Green Energy Park has been completed.

The upgrade, which included a moister separator, should help the system be more efficient, according to Director Timm Muth, director of Jackson County’s Green Energy Park, located at the old county landfill in Dillsboro.

The new blower has nine stages of operation that should better regulate the gas output pressure while facilitating a steadier and possibly higher level of gas flow to the forges and kilns.

The Jackson County Green Energy Park uses landfill gas and other renewable energy resources to provide fuel for blacksmith forges and the foundry, glassblowing studios and greenhouses. www.jcgep.org.

A meeting to form a new Friends of the Green Energy Park organization in Jackson County is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 18.

“In order to continue operating and moving forward, the Green Energy Park will need a lot of volunteer help,” said Timm Muth, the park’s director.  “We can use help with everything from working on equipment to pulling weeds, and a whole lot in-between.”

Muth will share long-range and short-term plans, and lead a discussion about the future form of the park.

Jackson County commissioners have discussed weaning the Green Energy Park from county subsidies over five years, which translates to about a 20 percent cut in county funding annually until that goal is reached. Jackson County has budgeted more than $1.2 million for the park since it opened in 2006.

The Green Energy Park uses methane created by decomposing trash at the old Dillsboro landfill to help fuel a blacksmith shop, greenhouse and glassblowers’ studio.

Volunteers with skills are needed — or an interest and willingness to learn — in the following areas: bookkeeping, giving tours, planning art classes, marketing, fundraising, gallery operations, landscaping, equipment maintenance and more.

The meeting will be held in the new Jackson County Senior Center off Webster Road near Southwestern Community College.

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