The state is recruiting businesses to move into a former North Country mill, which will soon be the site of a hydrogen-to-energy power plant.
The plant, in the village of Groveton, has been in the works since 2018 and is set for completion next summer.
Developer Whit Irvin, Jr., of Utah-based Q Hydrogen Solutions, says the facility would provide a cheap, renewable source of power for the mill’s tenants.
“Our goal is to try to help create that competitive advantage for an area that doesn't have it currently,” he says.
The plant will use water from the Upper Ammonoosuc River, using a new, low-power process to convert the hydrogen in that water to electricity.
Irvin had originally hoped to sell the power to a data center that planned to move into the mill – but that deal fell through.
He says he could sell the hydrogen energy onto the regional grid, but would still prefer to co-locate with businesses that can buy the power directly.
So the mill site's owner and the state are working to recruit business tenants to join the site, which covers nearly 140 acres.
They hope to create at least 500 jobs – around as many as were lost when the mill closed in 2008.
Business consultant Alex Ritchie says the site is especially attractive because of its proximity to industries in Canada – as well as its water supply, rail and gas service and other infrastructure.
“Obviously manufacturing would be wonderful, just because it really fits in well [with] the area and the workforce that exists and then having the low-cost power,” she says. “But we're not limited to just manufacturing."
Other options, she says, include solar, liquefied natural gas or biofuel projects, as well as agriculture and aquaculture operations.
The mill's only tenant right now is a metal fabricator that moved in in 2016.
Ritchie says officials hope to have businesses committed to the space by the time the hydrogen plant is up and running in mid-2020.