With at least 300 horses stabled at Keeneland at any time, and as many as 1,900 during peak horse sales, disposing of tons of straw and manure shoveled every day from barn stalls becomes a major environmental challenge for the race track.
On Friday, Keeneland received a conditional-use permit from the Board of Adjustment to establish a processing plant to convert muck into biofuel on property zoned for agriculture.
"It's a somewhat experimental idea. We thought we ought to give them a shot," said Jim Marx, senior planner for the Board of Adjustment.
Keeneland is in negotiations with Three Seconds To Oil of Albany, Ga., to set up two mobile units that would convert muck, or any carbon-based product including grass, paper, pine needles or vines, into a liquid biofuel.
A contract has not been signed, "but we're considering it very, very strongly," said John Howard, Keeneland's projects administrator. The track wanted to have zoning in place, assuming the deal will be approved.
If all goes according to plan, the mobile plants could be operational by early March.
"Obviously, if it is as good as we all hope it is, it would be a solution to a big problem," Howard said.
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