The tiny town of Reynolds had big plans when Gov. Mitch Daniels touted it in 2005 as the location of BioTown USA, the state's
first project to make a community produce enough energy to become self-sufficient.
But progress has been slow in the five years since in the town about 25 miles north of Lafayette. A $2.7 million greenhouse
featuring rotating wheels covered with algae serves as the wastewater treatment facility and is the most visible sign of progress
toward the BioTown goal. But the excitement that surrounded Daniels' 2005 launch of the effort has died down as several
other proposed projects dried up.
State officials insist they are still committed to the project and are working behind the scenes to help Reynolds obtain
grants. Brandon Seitz, director of the Indiana Office of Energy Development, says the algaewheel plant could spur additional
"A lot of it hinged on getting that first thing happening," Seitz said. "We're certainly proud to see
that happening now."
The goal of BioTown is to increase the town's access to ethanol and other biofuels and transform animal waste into electricity
and natural gas.
The wastewater facility began operating in January. Wastewater passes through filters and then flows through nine rotating
wheels covered with algae. The algae feed on nutrients in the wastewater, which passes through additional filters and a disinfection
system before being discharged from the plant.
"As of this month, we're getting excellent test results," said Mark Brewes, chief financial officer of Indianapolis-based
Algaewheel Technologies LLC, which built the system. "It's even better than expected."
Still, residents in the White County town of about 500 people say they expected more.
"I think it's kind of died and shriveled up," said Gene Dallinger.
Reynolds Town Councilman Sid Holderly said the town is trying to find grants to defer the cost of the algaewheel project,
which Algaewheel Technologies paid for. But he said many groups are reluctant to fund experimental projects.
Seitz said the state is helping the town apply for grants and remains active in the permitting process.
"But there comes a time when the town has to take a more active role itself," he said.