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Babcock & Wilcox fires up new ideas

By Katie Byard | Tue, 29 Jun 2010

Power-generation company taps into demand for green energy with solar, biomass technologie.

Babcock & Wilcox is well known for its massive coal-fired boilers made for electric utilities.

Today it is at the forefront of new technologies addressing environmental concerns.

That was the message from Rich Killion, president and chief operating officer of Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group Inc., who spoke at a luncheon last week celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Barberton Community Development Corp.

Barberton is home to B&W's Power Generation Group, with 1,500 employees in the city and Copley Township, as well as B&W's Nuclear Operations Group, with about 500 employees.

Killion said employees at the Power Generation Group's research center opened three years ago in Barberton are ''working hard to develop and demonstrate new technologies to capture greenhouse gases, and develop solar and biomass technologies.''

Burning biomass biological material such as wood as an alternative to coal cuts emissions linked to global warming. Biomass also can help meet aggressive federal mandates for renewable electricity.

But Killion said ''there is no silver bullet'' to meet the world's power needs. Traditional coal-fired utility plants as well as nuclear plants will have to be part of the energy mix, he said.

B&W is developing solar boilers, Killion said, ''but one challenge there is what to do when the sun goes down.'' Researchers are working to find ways to store large amounts of solar energy for the off hours, he said.

Biomass has its limitations, too, he said. ''There's only so much wood or grass to burn.''

Coal is a ''dirty word in much of North America,'' he said, but it's the world's ''most cost-competitive and effective energy source.''

This country boasts enough coal reserves to last 250 years, he said.

Public opinion of nuclear power is improving, and the industry ''is on the brink of a major comeback,'' he said. ''Some are calling it a 'nuclear renaissance.' ''

B&W, headquartered in Virginia, has expanded its nuclear operations in recent years, and in 2009 introduced plans to build ''modular'' nuclear power plants through a subsidiary, mPower.

Group moves forward

Barberton Community Development Corp. was founded in 1985 as Barberton was reeling from manufacturing job losses. Among the group's initiatives is using federal Community Development Block Grants as loans to spur development.

The group boasts that over 25 years, it has had a hand in creating or keeping 2,000 manufacturing jobs in Barberton. It said it has helped to bring in more than $100 million of private investment, including dollars for plant expansions.

The group's anniversary celebration Wednesday at the Adult Active Center at the Lake Anna YMCA also was a goodbye luncheon.

In April, the development group's longtime executive director, Larry Lallo, was picked to head the Barberton Community Foundation. This organization frequently teams up with the development group.

Tom Anders, president of the Barberton Community Development Corp.'s board, said a search is ongoing for a new executive director. He said the job probably will pay $60,000 to $75,000 annually.

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