PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Panama City Port Authority officials inflated the membrane of their new dome Tuesday morning.

The dome is 105 feet tall and costs $16.4 million and can store 20,000 tons.

It’s part of the Port Infrastructure Expansion Project.

“The dome has advantages,” Port Panama City Executive Director Alex King said. “It is a really good technology for bulk handling. It’s easy. What we do with a dome is the product flows in from the top and then when it’s time to load a vessel, there are grates that open on the bottom so the commodity flows out on the conveyor belts and goes to the ship for loading.”

Crews will be using concrete and rebar to create a skeletal structure for the dome.

Once complete, this dome will house wood pellets that are then loaded onto bulk carriers and shipped off to Europe.

“These wood pellets are used to cofire and create energy and power generation in European countries,” King said. “We started handling this cargo in 2008 when the plant was completed in Jackson County and this is an example of a pure win-win for economic development and attracting heavy industry into Northwest Florida that utilizes a seaport to import or export a commodity.”

The dome will enable the port to handle 300,000 additional tons of biomass wood pellets annually.

The dome is also part of the port’s storm hardening efforts, being built to withstand major wind events for generations to come.

King said the expansion will also create an additional 279 direct and indirect jobs.

The dome is scheduled to be completed in August 2023.