The Town of North Elba, New York has selected BIOFermTM Energy Systems/Viessmann Group as the anaerobic digester technology provider for a community organic diversion project expected to begin this year. The biodigester, designed for source-separated municipal food and organic wastes at a regional level, will be the very first of its kind in the United States, according to the champion of the project, Tammy Morgan, a science teacher at Lake Placid Middle-High School.
An estimated 900 tons of organic waste from nearby residences, restaurants and grocery stores are currently sent to area landfills in North Elba each year. Once the BIOFermTM technology is installed, this same waste will instead be diverted to the town’s biodigester, slashing greenhouse gas emissions associated with the region’s organic waste and creating green energy.
The biogas produced inside the North Elba digester will be combusted by a combined-heat-and-power system (CHP)—in turn generating approximately 290,500 kilowatt-hours of renewable electrical energy per year. This is the energy equivalent of powering almost 30 homes every year from the town’s food scraps and leftovers.
“It is time to start recognizing organic wastes as a valuable commodity, and the town of North Elba is doing just that,” said Morgan.
Students at the Lake Placid Central School District started preparing for the project this fall when they began scraping their cafeteria leftovers into a separate bin. Local solid waste and recycling collector, Casella Waste Management, is supporting the project and will help BIOFermTM learn more about the specific characteristics of the town’s food waste.
“Innovation around food waste is key to reducing our overall waste stream and building resource sustainability in our communities,” said Casella manager, Bill Meyers. “We’re excited to play a role in making this project a success.”
The biodigester project will reduce North Elba’s carbon footprint, dramatically cut its ‘tipping fee’ costs, and create sellable end products. In 2011, North Elba spent close to $230,000 in tipping fees—the cost associated with dumping waste in the landfill. Due to the absence of active landfills in the Adirondack Park and increasing costs of transportation fuels, it is clear to Morgan that the issue of diverting local food waste must be seen as a priority. Utilizing this waste as an energy resource with useful byproducts instead of spending money to fill landfills became the ultimate solution.
The project at North Elba is being made possible through a generous $1.06 million grant from the Regional Economic Development Council as part of NYSERDA’s—New York Energy Research and Development Authority—Cleaner Greener Communities program. The Town of North Elba worked collaboratively with Essex County and the Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) to secure the grant which will entirely fund this project and aid NYSERDA’s mission statement of increasing New York’s use of renewable energy.
Plans are also in the works for future phases of the project to construct a composting facility and greenhouse alongside the biodigester to take full advantage of the nutrient-rich, post-digested material and the thermal energy produced by the CHP. The liquid fertilizer and compost created from these additions will contribute to the sustainable facets of this biodigester project.
The North Elba biodigester is also expected to produce green jobs within the expanding bioenergy field, generate income through the production and sale of its byproducts and create a model community that will help support North Elba as a hub for tourism, conventions, and visitors. Most importantly, however, the project will provide a sustainable solution to an increasing waste issue.
“BIOFermTM is thrilled to participate in bringing North Elba’s visionary project to life and developing an optimized approach for waste management with the Town; the utilization of organic waste to create renewable electricity, compost products, and fertilizer liquid will be just a few of the benefits,” stated Christine McKiernan, BIOFermTM’s Vice President of Technology and Development. “The North Elba energy-from-waste project is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate the successful integration of community, business, regulatory bodies and industry working collaboratively on turning food and organic wastes into valuable energy and sustainable products.”
BIOFermTM Energy Systems, Whitney Beadle, (608) 229-6504 firstname.lastname@example.org
Anaerobic Digestion Overview
Digesters—also called biodigesters—work through a naturally occurring process called anaerobic digestion, which is the breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen to create renewable biogas. Although the technology has advanced, the concept is quite old; people have been utilizing anaerobic digestion since the 1800’s when sewer gas was used to power street lamps. Today, biodigesters are intensely used around the world to make alternative energy, heat, vehicle fuel and more. BIOFerm™ has installed over 400 biodigesters globally with Viessmann Group member, Schmack Biogas GmbH. Digester technology is increasingly gaining traction in the United States due to the need for a continuous and locally-produced green energy paired with a growing struggle to sustainably manage waste.
“Building resilient communities requires new ways of thinking about old problems. Sustainable solutions like this one are good for people, local economies and the environment; it will be sustainable for generations to come,” stated Morgan.
Technology Choice—Compact EUCOlino System
The prefabricated and compact biodigester to be used, EUCOlino, is uniquely characterized by its ability to process a diverse range of feedstocks and fit onto operations with a limited footprint; the plug-and-play technology is patented by the global company, The Viessmann Group, including its Wisconsin-based subsidiary, BIOFermTM Energy Systems.
The system is also modeled after a trusted and proven larger version of the technology that has been installed on a global scale.
Although EUCOlino is designed to handle a wide range of waste streams, the biodigester to be installed at North Elba will primarily process food waste.
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