Food-To-Energy Plant In Southington Expected To Go Online As Soon As Next Spring

Hartford Courant || December 6, 2016

Imagine last month's meatloaf powering somebody's television.

That, or something close to it, will begin happening next year when a new $14 million facility opens on DePaolo Drive to turn food waste into gases that will be burned to power machines that create 1.2 megawatts of electricity a year.

Quantum Biopower's high-tech recycling plant will process 40,000 tons of food waste yearly from central Connecticut restaurants, stores, food wholesalers, catering halls and other businesses that discard waste food.

Quantum Vice President Brain Paganini said Tuesday the plant could be producing power in the spring.

"The construction is done except for last-minute details," he said during a brief tour of the complex. "Once that's done, we'll start equipment, bring everything up to temperature, and seed the equipment with the bacteria."

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says it's the first such facility in Connecticut. More are expected, a result of a state mandate that 60 percent of all food waste be recycled by 2024 instead of being buried in landfills. A Pennsylvania company, Turning Earth LLC, has proposed a food waste facility on Spring Street. That project has yet to be built.

"The Quantum facility is a tremendous asset to the town," Southington's economic development director, Louis A. Perillo III, said Tuesday. "Green technology is a great thing to have. We're pleased Turning Earth wants to come here. It's good for the town."

Quantum Biopower, a subsidiary of Supreme Industries of Harwinton, is finishing the food waste processing plant on Supreme's Forest Products site here.

The system is a complicated network of food-grinding machines, heated water, and pipes to move the food slurry into sealed processing tanks to decompose. Anaerobic bacteria consume the slurry, producing flammable gas that will be burned to power electricity-generating machines. Heat from the bacterial breakdown of food will be used to warm the plant.

Processed food waste will be compressed to remove water, then mixed as an additive to mulch and produce 10,000 tons annually of high-quality compost, he said.

The system is tightly sealed to control odor. Trucks that will haul food wastes to the plant for processing will drive into an enclosed building before dumping food, he said.

The mechanical system using bacteria to process wastes into usable components is similar to the digestive system of people. There are many similar systems in Europe and some in America's west, midwest and southern states, but the Quantum plant is the first of its type on the East Coast, Paganini said.

Quantum is looking into building other facilities in Connecticut and elsewhere. Food waste recycling is now the law in Connecticut and Rhode Island and is considered likely to become law in neighboring states.

Recycling makes sense, Robert Klee, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said during an end-of-construction ceremony last month at the Quantum plant.

Food waste makes up about 25 percent of the 2 million tons of trash generated yearly in Connecticut, according to state records. At the site Nov. 15, Klee said this type of food waste digester facility is "a 21st century approach to management of our trash by turning waste food into affordable energy."

The town of Southington has agreed to buy electricity generated by Quantum to power municipal buildings.