Anaerobic Digest

BioCycle February 2015, Vol. 56, No. 2, p. 13

Montpelier, Vermont: Grants For Clean Energy And Food Scraps Recycling

In January, the Vermont (VT) Public Services Department (PSD), in collaboration with VT Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) and VT Agency of Natural Resources (VT ANR), awarded Clean Energy Development Fund grants in the amount of $139,000 to Casella Resource Solutions (Casella), and $131,549 to Grow Compost. Green Mountain Power also contributed $70,000 in refunded nuclear insurance monies to make the grants possible. Both Casella Resource Solutions and Grow Compost will use the funding to pilot collection of food scraps from businesses and institutions, and delivery to farm-based anaerobic digestion (AD) systems in the state that produce heat and power. Casella will bring collected material to the AD facility at Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport, while Grow Compost is delivering to Vermont Technical College’s AD system in Randolph.

“To meet our state’s energy needs, we need to find sources of sustainable and environmentally sound power,” states Christopher Recchia, Commissioner of the PSD. “The Public Service Department is pleased to be able to support not only renewable energy generation, but also on-farm anaerobic digestion and food scrap recycling.”

Washington, DC: USDA Overhaul Of REAP Funding

On December 29, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its final rule for the Rural Energy for American Program (REAP), which included a notice of solicitation of applications (NOSA). This REAP funding notice releases mandatory funding for both FY2014 and FY2015, as well as discretionary funding recently made available. With two years combined, this NOSA sets a record for the largest REAP funding notice in program history, of $101.35 million, notes the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s (ELPC) FarmEnergy.org website. USDA also overhauled REAP, making a number of significant modifications to help clarify and simplify the program (although the core program remains unchanged).

A major change is a three-tier application structure based on total project costs, with a goal of application complexity decreasing with decreasing project costs. The tiers are: Total project costs of $80,000 or less; more than $80,000 but less than $200,000; or $200,000 and greater. Determination of “technical merit” has been simplified, adds ELPC, and is now part of the eligibility criteria rather than the scoring criteria. Grant applications of $20,000 or less will compete in five competitions. (Congress required that 20% of funding should be used for small grants of $20,000 or less.) Eligibility for precommercial technologies has been removed; only commercially available technologies are considered eligible.

Another change has to do with metering of renewable electricity generated. The USDA had previously required two meters for renewable electricity generation projects where a residence would be closely associated with a meter serving the agricultural operation. They have relaxed this requirement, to some extent, by allowing applicants to certify that 51 percent or more of the power generated will be used by the agricultural operation or rural small business. Alternatively, the applicant can certify that any excess power will be sold back to the grid and not used for residential purposes.

Deadlines for REAP funding in FY 2015 are: 1) For applicants requesting $20,000 or less that wish to have their application compete in “Grants of $20,000 or less set aside,” complete applications must be received by April 30, 2015; and 2) For applicants requesting funds over $20,000 (unrestricted), complete applications must be received by either April 30, 2014 or June 30, 2015. For guaranteed loan only projects, applications will be reviewed and processed when received with monthly competitions on the first business day of each month for those applications ready to be funded. More details at www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_REAP.html.

Bristol, England and Seattle Washington: Biosolids Powering New Wave Of Public Transit

Bio-Bus: sewage and municipal waste powered

Bio-Bus: sewage and municipal waste powered

Human poop is making its mark on the auto industry as transportation’s freshest fuel source. In the United Kingdom, the Bio-Bus has been shuttling riders between the Bristol Airport and the city of Bath, completely powered by gas produced from local sewage and municipal waste. GENeco, a Bristol-based company that focuses on reusing food and liquid wastes that are traditionally hard to recycle, produces the fuel. Although the current Bio-Bus route is only 13 miles one-way, drivers rarely have to fill up — a single tank provides enough fuel for the bus to travel 186 miles, about the length of Great Britain. “The bus also clearly shows that human poo and our waste food are valuable resources,” notes Charlotte Morton, the chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association.

Heralded as the UK’s first mass-transit vehicle to be powered on food and human waste, the fuel is also keeping things local, sourcing its materials from the Bristol wastewater treatment works, which is operated by GENeco. Biogas powered vehicles “have an important role to play in improving air quality in UK cities,” explains GENeco’s GM Mohammed Saddiq. “But the Bio-Bus goes further than that and is actually powered by people living in the local area, including quite possibly those on the bus itself.” With Bristol being named the 2015 European Green Capital, the Bio-Bus’s mobile advertising for the city’s commitment to sustainability couldn’t be better timed.

In the Pacific Northwest, Seattle-based Vitruvian Energy is currently crowdfunding its idea for poop-powered mass transit. Unlike many other biosolids-based biofuels, Vitruvian’s fuel, called EEB, can blend with traditional gasoline and diesel. So far, blends of up to 20 percent biofuel have been tested in traditional engines. “[The blend] allows us to ease into this biofuel,” Vitruvian’s founder, Zack McMurry told KUOW, Seattle’s local National Public Radio affiliate. “You don’t have to create a car that just runs on our biofuel.”

Although EEB is backed by five years of research supported by organizations like the National Science Foundation and the California Energy Commission, more testing is still needed. Vitruvian’s current goal is to run a test vehicle on the EEB blend for one year to isolate any current issues with the fuel source.

Tjele, Denmark: Straw Pellets Boost Biogas Production

Using demonstration-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) facilities, Denmark’s Innovation Network for Biomass (INBIOM) has demonstrated that adding 10 percent by weight of straw pellets to livestock manure could triple biogas yields.

INBIOM’s study notes that for a plant processing 100,000 tons of manure annually, biogas yields could be increased from 2.5 million cubic meters to 6.5 million cubic meters a year. The research was carried out as part of a project to support Denmark’s national target of processing 50 percent of its manure in biogas facilities by 2020. As it is considered an agricultural by-product, straw is unaffected by Danish plans to limit the quantities of purpose-grown crops in biogas plants’ feedstock.

Nairobi, Kenya: Slaughterhouse Digester And Biogas Sales

The pastoralist Maasai in Kenya are not known for leading a modern lifestyle, but their Keekonyokie slaughterhouse, just outside Nairobi, is demonstrating a 21st-century sensibility. All of the blood and waste from its operations go into a digester, producing enough electricity to power the meat cold room, meat processing equipment and hot water for sterilizing and washing the abattoir. Excess biogas is sold to local hotels, while the slurry becomes fertilizer for grazing pastures. With support from the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) and the Kenya Climate Innovation Center, a World Bank initiative, the slaughterhouse expects to sell its Keeko Biogas in portable 6-kg cylinders as early as March 2015.

Currently, the plant is capable of generating enough biogas per day to fill 100 such cylinders, and KIRDI and CIC are testing the cylinders and providing funds to upgrade the slaughterhouse with secondary biogas digesters that should triple its output, KIRDI officials told Reuters. Each cylinder should cost around Ksh700 ($8), half the cost of conventional liquefied (LP) petroleum gas. Before it started producing biogas in 2005, the Keekonyokie plant was spending Ksh 36,000 ($400) every week on waste disposal to meet standards set by the National Environmental Management Authority, Reuters reported.

A 2010 report by the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, found little biogas use in Kenya. But the country spends around $900 million a year on off-grid lighting, and fuel-based light sources are responsible for over 2.3 million tons of CO2 emissions per year, notes the UN Environment Program.

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