One Man's Trash Is Another Man's … Energy?

FuelCell and Gills Onions will produce energy from onion waste.

FuelCell Energy Inc. announced Tuesday that Gills Onions, a grower and processor of fresh-cut onions, has purchased two Direct FuelCell (DFC) 300 MA power plants that will reduce the company’s energy costs by using biogas created from onion peel waste products to generate electricity, while also lowering its waste disposal expenses.

Gills Onions plans to install two 250 kW DFC units that are expected to be operational in mid-2007.

Currently, the company disposes of its solid onion waste in composting fields – an expensive use of the company’s land. By using renewable biogas generated by digesting onion peels and other fresh produce waste, Gills Onions will reduce fuel and waste disposal costs, resulting in significant annual savings.

Steven Gill, Partner, Gills Onions, said: “Years of research and then connecting with FuelCell Energy have provided a breakthrough where the raw vegetable waste can be converted into electricity, thereby reducing greenhouse emissions, eliminating costly offsite waste disposal, reducing our energy needs and making a new model for sustaining California agriculture.”

Southern Gas Edison, administrator for the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) Self Generation Program for the Oxnard area of California, issued a reservation letter that will provide incentive funding of up to $2.25 million of eligible project costs. Gills Onions will also be able to depreciate the capital cost of the fuel cell on an accelerated five year schedule and take advantage of an Investment Tax Credit, a provision of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which provides up to $1000 for each kilowatt, for the purchase of fuel cell power plants.

Because FuelCell Energy’s DFC products meet the California Air Resources Board stringent emissions requirements for 2007, they are categorized as ultra-clean distributed technology, which helps streamline the permitting process and qualifies FuelCell Energy’s DFC products for preferential rate treatment by the CPUC, including elimination of exit fees and stand-by charges for customer electric generation.