Deerfield ZBA approves permit for supercapacitor research company

  • Deerfield Zoning Board of Appeals Chair Adam Sokoloski, at left, speaks to Florrent co-founder and Chief Engineer Alex Nichols at Thursday’s meeting. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/11/2023 12:40:54 PM
Modified: 8/11/2023 12:40:44 PM

DEERFIELD — Days after appearing before the Planning Board, a high-tech research facility has the go-ahead to operate in South Deerfield following the Zoning Board of Appeals’ approval of its special permit on Thursday.

Florrent, a research and development company specializing in supercapacitors, will be putting down roots at a 5,000-square-foot leased facility at 10 Greenfield Road, where it will research the use of hemp waste to generate the carbon needed to produce its electrical components.

The company also received a variance from Section 4131 of the town’s bylaws, which requires emissions — including the carbon dioxide Florrent will be expelling — to be confined to the building.

With the site plan, special permit and variance approved, Florrent co-founder and Chief Engineer Alex Nichols said he expects to begin operations as soon as occupancy permits are issued and the special permit is officially signed, which could take about a month or two.

“Then, it’s off to the races,” Nichols said.

Florrent is currently based out of a University of Massachusetts Amherst laboratory, and Nichols said he and his co-founders are looking to expand their company.

Much of Thursday’s meeting followed the trajectory of Monday’s Planning Board discussion, during which Nichols shared a slideshow about Florrent’s work and goals. One such goal entails coming back to the Planning Board and ZBA within “nine to 18 months” to evolve into a manufacturing facility if Florrent’s pilot manufacturing proves to be successful.

Supercapacitors are typically created with activated carbon from coconut husks sourced from Asia, while Florrent’s innovation is sequestering the carbon from hemp waste created in the U.S. and using it in its components, rather than letting the carbon enter the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, according to the company’s executive summary provided to the town.

To acquire this carbon, Florrent heats its furnaces up to 1,500 degrees in the presence of chemical agents. This process creates a small amount of carbon dioxide. Nichols explained previously that their research phase would produce about 2 kilograms of carbon dioxide per hour — over the course of six to 10 hours a week — which is equivalent to driving a car for 2 miles on the highway.

Nichols said there will be no noise or odor associated with the production of the carbon dioxide and that Florrent’s furnaces are electric. There will be little noise or traffic generation resulting from the facility either, as there will be intermittent deliveries while the company sets up and only up to five employees on site at a time.

No external changes will be made to the building, beyond a small stack to expel carbon dioxide, which Nichols said should not exceed the building’s 18-foot height, as it will be placed on a section of the building that is 14 feet high. ZBA Chair Adam Sokoloski noted, though, that Florrent should check in with the building inspector to ensure it meets town regulations.

Sokoloski said he was inclined to approve the special permit and variance, and laid out several conditions for Florrent: the company must have 24/7 contact information filed with the town and South Deerfield Fire District; the Fire District will annually inspect the site with a hazmat technician; all state and local regulations must be followed; and the special permit is for Phase 1 of the operation only and is non-transferable.

“I appreciate the applicant’s thoroughness and providing it in an easy-to-read format,” Sokoloski added.

Nichols said those conditions are “very fair” and agreed to the terms. While the company has recently hired its last employee for its research phase, if it moves into manufacturing, he expects Florrent will be bringing some jobs to Deerfield. The company is also interested in creating potential internship opportunities for Frontier Regional School and college students.

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.


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