State's First Energy Plant To Generate Electricity From Food Waste

Hartford Courant || November 18, 2016

The state's first energy plant that will use waste food to generate electricity is nearing completion and likely to begin operating next spring.

Quantum Biopower completed building the equipment this fall and is waiting for final permits from state environmental regulators before it can start using the plant. It will process 40,000 tons of waste food a year to generate enough burnable gas to make 1.2 mega-watts of electricity, enough energy to power at least 700 homes a year. Southington will buy some of the electricity to power its buildings.

The project is the first coming online of several proposed after the state's target of recycling by 2024 60 percent of the estimated 500,000 tons of food waste produced yearly. Much of it is now brought to landfills or incinerated. Food waste comprises about 25 percent of the 2 million tons of trash produced in the state each year.

"We passed a big milestone with completion of construction," Quantum vice president Brian Paganini said Friday. The company, a subsidiary of Supreme Industries of Harwinton, had a ribbon cutting ceremony Nov. 15 at the DePaolo Drive site. State officials and lawmakers involved with the three-year-long project attended.

"We have a few more permits to receive and then we will be ready to start up the plant," Paganini said. "We have to start it up slowly, feed bacteria into the digester to prepare it."

The facility will use an anaerobic digester to decompose food wastes in a sealed container, create the gases produced and burn those gases to generate electricity. Spent food wastes will be sold as premium organic compost. It's estimated the plant will produce 10,000 tons yearly of this compost.

The equipment is sealed so the process will emit no odor, Paganini said. Three full time workers will operate the facility.

The state's food waste diversion mandate requires that certain food waste generators producing more than 2 tons of food waste per week or more separate out that waste from their other garbage and send it to a compost facility or digester for recycling.

Quantum will receive source separated organic waste from supermarkets, food processors, schools and banquet halls and turn that waste into renewable electricity and compost. The vast majority of its feedstock is under contract with area food waste generators such as Shop Rite, the Aqua Turf and the Farmington Club.

"We have some contracts with places near the shoreline but most are with generators in central Connecticut," Paganini said.

At Tuesday's ribbon cutting, state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection commissioner Robert Klee said the Quantum facility is an example of the policy to turn waste food into affordable energy.

"This is a 'win' for both our efforts to reduce costs of trash disposal and our focus on developing new sources of power," Klee said via press release.