September 22, 2008 | General

Editorial: Composting, Renewable Energy Roads Merge In Madison

BioCycle September 2008, Vol. 49, No. 9, p. 4

The old adage, “necessity is the mother of invention,” couldn’t be more true as we prepare for next month’s 8th Annual BioCycle Conference on Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling in Madison, Wisconsin. Despite politicians’ calls for offshore oil drilling, it is more evident than ever that the solutions we need for today’s energy (and climate) crisis can be found on land. These days, no one has to go too far before they run into an anaerobic digester, composting facility, biofuels production plant, wind farm, solar array or some other renewable, sustainable infrastructure popping up on the rural, suburban and urban landscapes.
While the federal government fumbles around for energy solutions and a “national policy,” state and local government, big and small businesses, nonprofits and universities are putting projects on the ground (and turbines in the air), power in the grid, renewable gas in the pipeline – and increasingly, biofuels in the pumps. (Okay, federal dollars have helped make some of that happen.) This progress hasn’t been without challenges, but heck, progress is being made. This is aptly described in Mark Jenner’s column on page 39.
As we worked on this issue of BioCycle, we also became excited about the cross-fertilization happening between composting and renewable energy, driven in part by high fuel prices. Two articles in this month’s Renewable Energy Conference Preview report (one on Akron, Ohio and the other on Toronto, Ontario) highlight projects where anaerobic digestion is followed by composting – capturing both the energy and soil amendment values (as well as other environmental benefits) embodied in those two processes. This “match made in heaven” has long been evident, although underutilized.
But where that “mother of invention” adage comes into play arose in the “Nuts & Bolts” article on Windrow Turners (page 32). Vendor after vendor interviewed is experiencing growing demand for their machines from the agricultural sector. “The high cost of commercial fertilizer is opening many doors,” says David Leavell of Farmer Automatic. “As prices have gone up, more farmers are making and utilizing compost for fertilizer,” says Stan Brown of Brown Bear. Other vendors noted inquiries from biofuels producers to handle by-products from their processing systems. Basically, farmers need to produce their own crop nutrients and soil amendments, and what better place to start than with their own residuals streams!
The merging of the composting and renewable energy roads will become evident to all who attend BioCycle’s 8th Annual Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling Conference next month in Madison. Opportunities to cross-fertilize via technologies and systems, knowledge and experience, research and policy initiatives will come to life at the lecterns, in the exhibit halls, on the tours, and in the hallways. Seeds will be planted for new projects, new collaborations and new equipment innovations.
The momentum swirling out of the conference will be captured on the pages of upcoming BioCycle issues, and celebrated in great style at next April’s BioCycle International Conference in San Diego. We look forward to you joining us as we advance sustainable, renewable solutions. – Nora Goldstein

Sign up