Food Service & Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Sustainability

Fremont's $22M waste-to-energy plant opens

October 16, 2012
| By Pete Daly |
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Fremont's $22M waste-to-energy plant opens
The Fremont Community Digester energy plant -- set to begin production by year's end -- will source food-processing waste from Gerber Co. and other regional food companies. Courtesy NOVI Energy

The ceremonial ribbon has been cut at a $22 million facility in Fremont that will convert organic waste from food-processing plants and farm livestock into natural gas for generating electricity.

NOVI Energy built the Fremont Community Digester, dedicated last week, with financing from Comerica Bank, supported by a $12.8 million U.S. Department of Agriculture Biorefinery 9003 loan guarantee. When it actually begins commercial production of electricity before the end of the year, it is expected to use 100,000 tons of waste each year in enclosed anaerobic digester tanks that yield biogas. The gas will fuel two reciprocating engines to generate three megawatts of electrical power that will be sold to Consumers Energy and added to the grid. Three megawatts is generally considered to be enough power for about 1,500 average American homes.

Converting the waste into power saves the expense of dumping it in a landfill and reduces pollution from agricultural runoff. Solids remaining after the digestion process can be used as farm animal bedding or as a soil conditioner.

Gerber Co., which has a baby food plant in Fremont, will be a main supplier of the food processing waste, along with other food companies in the region.

“That’s one of the main reasons why the plant was built in Fremont,” said NOVI Energy spokesperson Kelly Farr.

“Fremont is the first step in what we expect will be a series of anaerobic digesters to be developed in the United States and elsewhere in the world, producing renewable, sustainable electricity from organic waste to improve our environment and diversify our renewable electricity supply,” said Anand Gangadharan, president of NOVI Energy, which developed and manages the Fremont Community Digester.

The FCD is said to be the first large-scale anaerobic digester in the United States using organic waste from multiple sources.

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