Fuel of the Future: 1.2 megawatts from 40,000 tons of food

Republican-American || November 16, 2016


John Ferguson, right, business development manager for Quantum Biopower in Southington, talks to Russ Lallier of All Waste, a trash management company in Hartford, on Tuesday during a tour of the new plant where food waste is converted to energy. Trucks back up to this area and dump the waste, while the vent above acts like a stove hood to suck out the odors. (Photo by: Steven Valenti, Republican-American)

Southington plant to convert food waste to energy

Technology has caught up with “Back to the Future” where food waste is converted into energy.

It’s not Doc Brown dropping a banana peel into Mr. Fusion to power his Deloreon time machine, but rather Quantum Biopower’s new anaerobic digester — the first of its kind in the state.

But the principle is exactly the same: The bio fuel facility will reduce food waste while creating renewable energy. It was built in response to a 2011 state law that requires any business or institution producing more than two tons of food waste a week to send it to a compost facility or digester within 20 miles for recycling.

Anaerobic digestion is a series of biological processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. One of the end products is bio gas, which is combusted to generate electricity and heat, or can be processed into renewable natural gas and transportation fuels.

Each year, Connecticut manages more than 2 million tons of trash, 25 percent of which is food waste.

Once it’s up and running, the plant will take 40,000 tons of food waste out of garbage and landfills and produce 1.2 megawatts of electricity for Southington. The facility is planned to begin operations by the end of the year.

“This facility is the result of the convergence of forward thinking renewable energy and waste reduction efforts championed by the state,” Quantum Vice President and Managing Director Brian Paganini said.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection worked with Quantum since the project’s inception and officials say it’s a win for energy production and the environment.

“With the help of this first-in-the-state facility we are paving the way for a 21st century approach to management of our trash by turning waste food into affordable energy,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee.

DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said anaerobic digestion is a much more efficient way to manage the state’s solid waste issue and to produce new forms of energy.

“It helps us to diversify our energy portfolio and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels,” Schain said.

Quantum Business Development Manager John Ferguson said clients include the Aqua Turf, Whole Foods, Guida’s Dairy, ShopRite, ESPN, Yale, facilities in Hartford and Bozzuto’s whole sale food distributors in Cheshire.

Southington Town Manager Garry Brumbach said he’s excited to have Quantum building and investing here, and the partnership is a big component of the town’s energy strategy that includes using alternative sources of power like solar and reducing its carbon footprint.

“I have to say how excited we are to have them here,” Brumbach said. “Now we’re on our way to achieving our energy goals.”

Brumbach said the town has solar panels on several schools and at a landfill, burns trash at a Bristol facility, will use Quantum for food waste and has two charging stations for electric vehicles. He said he is proud of Southington’s action and vision.

“We have an energy goal and we’re doing everything we can to get there,” Brumbach said. “We’re certainly at the front of the pack and we have an incredibly forward- thinking Town Council that’s directed me to do everything I can to be more energy efficient.”

“This is a big deal for both Southington and the state, and it’s the next step in the recycling trail,” Brumbach said.

The project cost $14 million, Paganini said, and Quantum received a $2 million low-interest loan from the Connecticut Green Bank. Southington has a 20-year agreement to buy the energy, which will serve municipal buildings through a virtual net metering program.