April 22, 2010 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle April 2010, Vol. 51, No. 4, p. 6

Call For Papers – 2010 BioCycle Energy Conference
The Call for Papers for BioCycle’s Tenth Annual Conference On Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling begins May 1st. This year’s BioCycle Energy Conference is in Des Moines, Iowa, October 18-20 at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown. Suggested topics for the Call for Papers include – but are not limited to – the following: Accelerating Adoption of Anaerobic Digestion; Feedstock Supply Assessment Tools; Biogas Market Development; Anaerobic Digestion Systems For MSW Organics; Community Digesters And Food Waste Diversion; Biogas Conditioning, Biomethane Markets; Digestate Markets, Coproducts; High Strength Wastewater Treatment; Separation, Processing Scenarios For Mixed Organic Streams; Emerging Carbon Markets; Composting Connections; Codigestion Substrates; Permitting, Policies, Regulations; and WWTP Digesters, Food Waste and FOG. Presentation abstracts (250 words) can be submitted via the Conference website, Deadline for submissions is July 15, 2010.

American Biogas Council Update
The American Biogas Council (ABC), an industry association to advance anaerobic digestion technology in the United States, was formally incorporated in March 2010. ABC represents manufacturers, engineers and equipment specifiers, project developers, equipment sales, owner/operators of anaerobic digestion (AD) technology and systems, and advocates of using AD technologies to manage organic waste streams and generate renewable energy. The Council includes the full range of AD technologies and projects, including farm-based digesters, centralized facilities processing a variety of municipal and industrial organic waste streams, and existing digesters at municipal wastewater treatment plants.
ABC is committed to providing its members with outreach and educational materials, as well as news updates related to regulations and policies at the federal and state level, funding/grant opportunities, project developments and more. Although project scales, technologies and feedstocks vary significantly among existing and planned AD facilities, there are many common themes which unify ABC’s efforts. These include: creating markets for biogas, streamlining permitting, standardizing utility interconnections, establishing feed-in tariffs and project development incentives, and promoting research and technology initiatives. For more information, including how to become a member, visit

White House Dances In The Garden Season, Cranks Up Compost Production
The blog, Obama Foodorama: White House Food Initiatives … and Other Bipartisan Bytes of Food Politics (, has had plenty to talk about recently. First Lady Michelle Obama has been digging her organic garden and making the rounds at public schools to promote nutrition awareness and the connections between physical health, mental acuity and fresh, healthy vegetables. Recently, she invited schoolchildren to the White House Kitchen Garden, to promote gardening as an excellent form of exercise. Obama Foodorama was on hand as Mrs. Obama encouraged kids and government officials alike – including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack – in a vegetable cheer and “rhubarb dance” to commemorate spring planting. “It was a hilarious new-modern spring ritual, and another ‘landmark’ moment in American food culture, unexpected and fun,” an Obama Foodorama blog post recollecting the day’s events reads.
The soil for the Kitchen Garden beds was fortified for the spring planting celebration with compost from an onsite vermicomposter tucked away in the bushes at the far end of the garden. The composter is fed with scraps from the White House kitchen and trimmings from the garden. “This is the first time we’ve been able to use the outputs from the [composter] to cover the entire garden,” said White House Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass. “We’ve used it for sections before. The compost is great, and really helps the plants grow.”

Farm Energy Success Stories

The Rural Energy for America (REAP) program emerged from both the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bills and was designed to promote clean-and-affordable energy and green jobs, decrease dependence on foreign oil, increase and diversify on-farm income and keep rural energy dollars closer to home. Since its inception in 2003, REAP has funded more than 3,000 on-farm energy projects across the United States, according to a report published by the Environmental Law & Policy Center. Even with program funding boosted significantly in 2008, demand for REAP dollars is outstripping supply, with $60 million available and more than $130 million requested. Between 2003 and 2008, funded technologies have been as follows: energy efficiency, 29 percent; wind, 27 percent; biomass, 21 percent; anaerobic digestion, 15 percent; solar, 6 percent; and hybrid, geothermal and hydropower, 1 percent each.
Anaerobic digester projects funded through REAP include: Neighborhood Energy, LLC at Maxwell Farms in Newport, Vermont, which can produce up to 1.75 million kWh/year of electricity. Net annual income from the $1.8 million project is $224,900, with expected payback of just under 6.5 years; and Hunter Haven Farms in Pearl City, Illinois, which installed a digester on its 600-head dairy farm; there is a 130 kW generator. A more in-depth story about REAP and its availability to fund on-farm renewable energy projects will appear in an upcoming issue of BioCycle.

Sharks And Shrews In The (BioCycle) News
A sea creature that has long posed a problem for coastal Greenland fishing villages may turn out to provide a convenient feedstock for producing bioenergy in those same villages. Weighing in at more than 2,000 pounds and stretching up to 16 feet nose to tail, the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) inhabits the North Atlantic Ocean around Greenland and Iceland and often becomes the unintended victim of salmon and halibut fishermen. The flesh of this particular shark species is poisonous and must be boiled thoroughly before being consumed by humans. Thus, most of the accidentally caught sharks are simply discarded.
Rather than waste the large fish, locals of at least one fishing village have suggested using them as feedstock to generate biofuel. An experiment converting shark flesh to biofuel is under way at the Arctic Technology Center. Under the current fishing climate, it’s estimated that the annual Greenland shark catch in one 2,450-person fishing village could provide approximately 13 percent of that village’s energy needs.
In other critter news, researchers recently discovered that the tiny mountain tree shrew (Tupaia montana) feeds on the nectar that coats the underside of pitcher plant leaves and then leaves its droppings in the cylindrical pitchers from which the plants get their names. If it sounds like the mountain tree shrew is overextending its welcome, think again. For the small tropical mammals, it’s a bit of multitasking; for the pitcher plant, the strategically deposited feces offer a necessary nitrogen boost.

Massachusetts Ballot Initiative Could Hurt Biogas Industry
A ballot initiative designed to limit carbon dioxide emissions from renewable and alternative energy sources could deliver a blow to the biogas industry in Massachusetts, although that apparently wasn’t the intention of the sponsors. If passed, the initiative would cap CO2 emissions for renewable energy facilities that rely on heat for decomposition to 250 pounds per megawatt-hour produced. Attorney Margaret Sheehan, cofounder of the ad hoc environmental coalition EcoLaw, which sponsored the initiative, says the language only covers combustion and pyrolyzation, thereby excluding anaerobic digestion. “I think the industry is raising some red herrings,” says Sheehan. She explains the initiative is targeting industry that burns garbage and woody biomass and receives renewable energy tax credits.
EcoLaw’s position is that woody biomass and waste burning are not clean energy, and such processes should not be considered in the same category and wind, solar and geothermal. “They should not be getting alternative energy credits when they’re going to be spewing toxic chemicals out of smokestacks and making climate change worse over next 30 years,” notes Sheehan. She and EcoLaw gathered the 100,000 signatures necessary to put the initiative before the Massachusetts legislature, which has until May 4 to approve it. If the legislature does not approve the initiative, petition organizers have until July 7 to obtain around 11,000 signatures – half of one percent of voters who participated in the last gubernatorial election – to get the measure on the ballot.
Anthony Callendrello, COO of BayCorp Holdings, Ltd., whose subsidiary Neo Energy, LLC is proposing two anaerobic digester facilities in Massachusetts, says that while the initiative was well-intentioned, it could have a chilling effect on the biogas industry. “Our reading of the ballot initiative as written is that it would pertain to anaerobic digestion,” Callendrello says, explaining that once the methane is produced it has to be burned in order to create electricity. And that process, he says, does exceed the cap of 250/lbs of CO2 emissions per MWh produced. He adds that landfills capturing methane for energy generation would not be impacted by the initiative, even though studies have clearly shown that converting food waste to methane through anaerobic digestion to be much more efficient, in terms of reduced CO2 emissions, than capturing landfill methane.

College Campuses Go “Trayless”
It seems the old adage “the bigger the house, the more stuff you find to fill it up with” can be applied to the campus dining hall experience as well. Several colleges and universities are finding that when they remove those big plastic trays from the chow line, food waste plummets. Andy Sarjahani and colleagues published findings of a “trayless study” conducted at an all-you-can-eat Virginia Tech dining hall in a May 2009 edition of the Journal of Hunger and Nutrition. The study charted 6,940 total pounds of food waste -5,829 lbs edible and 1,111 lbs inedible/compostable – over a week with trays compared to 5,150 total pounds of food waste (4,103 lbs edible and 1,047 lbs inedible/compostable) during a week without them. The study concluded that going trayless would result in prevention of approximately 49,923 pounds of edible food waste at just one of Virginia Tech’s 11 dining hall’s (two facilities are all-you-can-eat) over the school year.
Despite the success, Sarjahani suggested that the real challenge lies in changing a wasteful model of food distribution. “The root of the problem really isn’t taking away trays; that, really, is comparable to putting on a Band Aid,” he says. “It’s a good step, but in my opinion it’s only about 25 percent of the way there. I don’t see how the all-you-can-eat model is sustainable socially, environmentally or economically.”
Other college are going trayless in increments or altogether. The trend represents a growing desire across campuses nationwide to embrace more sustainable practices. At Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont, doing away with trays in the cafeteria is part of a broader sustainability effort that includes composting all appropriate food waste from the dining hall at the 4-acre student farm. “We need to get back to the notion of the dining hall as a true campus commons,” says Philip Ackerman-Leist, director of the Green Mountain College’s Food & Farms project. Composting is part of that effort.

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