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Food for Energy

food, energy, organic

Did you ever have too much on your plate and felt guilty to throw it out even after trying to get the dog to eat it? As of recently there is a reason not to feel so much guilt..if you live in the Bay Area that is.

Table scraps from the finest restaurants in the San Francisco are now able to turn their wasted food into clean renewable energy and even fuel for cars. The Biogas Energy project will process 8 tons of leftovers weekly, and if everything goes well it could be 8 tons daily.If they hit their mark, it would be enough energy to provide 10 normal size homes for one day.

In development for the last eight years by UC Davis professor of biological and agricultural engineering Ruihong Zhang, the ‘anaerobic phased solids digester’ as it is being called has been adapted for commercial use by Onsite Power Systems Inc.

The plan for this is to divert organic matter, ‘stuff made from plants and animals, such as food waste and yard clippings away from landfills and into the energy grid’. This would reduce green gas emissions from landfills and turn it into a substantial source of clean energy.
‘’The new Biogas Energy Facility at UC Davis allows us to conduct innovative research on renewable energy sources. By utilizing agricultural and food waste as alternatives to fossil fuels, UC Davis continues the tradition of protecting California’s environment,’’ stated Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environment Sciences.

‘’The College of Engineering is leading a campuswide initiative that emphasizes renewable energy, energy efficiency and transportation. The opening of the Biogas Energy Project marks a significant step, and we’re delighted that we are able to partner with industry in addressing this important problem,’’ added Dean Enrique Lavernia.
Zhang’s system is a different kind than other anaerobic digesters, which can be found in use on municipal wastewater treatment plants and livestock farms in three ways.

It can process a much more varied kind of waste, both solid and liquid. It works faster, it can turn waste to energy in half the time than others. It can produce two clean gases, hydrogen and methane. Usually, only methane can be produced. These two gases can provide power for electricity and heat and can also work for cars, trucks and buses.

Zhang proved in his laboratory that in anaerobic, or oxygen-free conditions, naturally occurring bacteria can quickly convert food and green wastes into hydrogen and methane gases.
Can they make the gases in consistently high quality and large volumes for the long run?

‘’My UC Davis students and I have determined the efficient bacterial species and their favorite environmental conditions for turning various wastes into gases,’’ Zhang believes. ‘’We know what happens with bacteria in 10 to 5,000 gallons of water and waste. Now we expect to see those bacteria perform as well, if not better, when they are in 50,000 to 300,000 gallons.’’
If Mr. Zhang is right, Onsite Power Systems will be able to sell similar power-production facilities to waste-generating industries, such as food processors, farms and dairies, and municipal green-waste collection programs.

‘’Onsite will actually scale the digester to fit the customer’s operations, then build it on their property. We will take the customer’s waste stream in and send the energy it produces right back out to their plant.’’ Said Dave Konwinski CEO of Onsite.
‘’This technology will make a substantial dent in both our landfill needs and our use of petroleum and coal for fuels and electricity. It also will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.’’

Onsite have helped Mr. Zhang by investing almost 2 million dollars to refine the technology and prepare it for transfer to the commercial market.Other noticeable contributors are the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) with university grants of almost 1 million dollars.
Published: 2007-11-19
Author: Derek Cyr

About the author or the publisher
Born and raised in front of the ocean has a way of always wanting to look further. For this reason, I have always been interested at looking at every aspect of life. To say that I like everything would be wrong. To say that I usually like to try before deciding would be fair. By doing this, I was able to narrow down what I’m interested in. I started playing drums at 10 years old and I have never got tired of it. I also love kayaking ever since I discovered, as a child, that water can be an open road. My love of writing came when I realized that, though many people read, most don’t completly read. It can be skipping a phrase while reading a book or just reading the headline of an article. I try my best to find a way of writing that will make people read the whole thing before turning the page.

As for interests go, you can say that life and death interest me very much. So much of unknown aspects in both worlds. Family, friends, music, movies, books and newspapers will always keep me happy.

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