Food Service & Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Sustainability

Fremont biodigester reopens

September 22, 2017
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Fremont Digester
The Fremont Regional Biodigester will be able to convert 165,000 tons of waste annually. Courtesy Generate Capital

After sitting idle for more than two years, a biodigester in Fremont is open again under new ownership and management.

The new owner is San Francisco-based Generate Capital Inc., which focuses on waste-to-energy products. Generate Capital also partnered with Dynamic Systems Management LLC (DSM) to manage the facility.

DSM is based in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and operates similar facilities in Wisconsin and Indiana. Under their operation, the Fremont plant will run 24/7 and have the capacity to handle approximately 450 tons, or 120 gallons of organic waste, per day.

The new owners also invested in upgrades for the facility. The plant now comes equipped with controls for improved monitoring, depackaging equipment and measures to minimize odors. The plant will follow a strict digestion management plan approved by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to ensure the full lifecycle of the waste is accounted for.

“We are working with nearby food processors and agribusinesses to help divert thousands of tons of waste from landfills,” said Daniel Meccariello, COO for DSM. “We will be able to accept and process just about any type of organic material and turn it into an immediately usable, environmentally friendly form of energy for local families.”

The Fremont Regional Digester was closed in 2015 after the previous owner, NOVI Energy, failed to cover its upfront costs. Going forward, the plant will have two revenue sources, the energy it sells to Consumers Energy and tipping fees collected from waste producers.

Meccariello described the digester plant as being similar to a cow’s stomach. Organic waste is removed from its packaging and ground into a watery slurry. The mixture is then pumped into digestion tanks where microorganisms convert the mixture into a natural gas, which can be used for energy. The leftover substance can be used as organic fertilizer for local farms.

Biogas produced by the digester will be used to generate over 2.8 megawatts of electricity. With an average Michigan household using about 8,400 kilowatt-hours per year, the digester could produce enough energy to power about 2,500 homes.

Gerber Products Co., which has a plant in Fremont, was one of the first local businesses to supply organic waste for the biodigester. Gerber helped supply feedstock for the plant since it was operated by its former owner.

“Nestle Gerber has worked with the digester in Fremont since the beginning, and we appreciate the value it brings to the community and the environment,” said Tom Boerger, Fremont factory manager for Gerber.

The Fremont Regional Digester will work with customers to develop plans for organic waste disposal that address everything from transport of the wastes to delivery schedules and handling of specialized wastes.

The plant also has developed a network of trucking subcontractors that can perform regular pickup services for customers and even provide a Certificate of Destruction for those requiring disposal certainty.

“We welcome customers of all sizes — whether they have deliveries once a day or once a week,” Meccariello said. “It really doesn’t matter what the organic waste is or how much they have.”

Generate Capital currently has about a dozen companies providing waste as feedstock for the plant.

“The digester not only benefits our local economy by supporting food and agricultural producers in West Michigan by recycling food waste to produce electricity but will also create a lasting impact on the Fremont community and our natural environment,” Fremont City Manager Todd Blake said.

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