By SHERIDAN CYR
In early December, Quantum Biopower flipped the switch, and the groundbreaking power plant is now supplying energy to the local grid. The production phase marks the culmination of a multi-year project that transformed the former town landfill into a power-generating facility.
Interim Town Manager Mark Sciota said it was a pleasure for Southington to be a part of this unique project, and the town is already reaping benefits. “The fact that they have been working closely with the town over many years, and have experienced the success they have, strengthens our relationship and allows the town to purchase electricity generated at the facility at below-market rate using the virtual net metering program,” he said.
Quantum Biopower takes recycling to a new level, using advanced technologies to transform organic waste into sustainable renewable energy that would otherwise be sent to landfills. The facility is the first of its kind in the state.
“All the bio-gas we are making is now being used as fuel to produce power,” said QB marketing director and vice president Brian Paganini. “This is a direct benefit to the town of Southington.”
Quantum Biopower is an anaerobic digestion facility which uses a natural process that turns organic material into renewable energy by breaking down the material in the absence of oxygen, creating biogas. Bio-gas can be used as fuel to generate energy, heat and vehicles.
Examples of organic material that Quantum can process includes food waste, fats and oils, livestock manure, municipal wastewater solids, bio-based lubricants and various other organic waste streams. The material is processed in a digester tank, and turned into biogas. What’s left after that, the co-product, can be used for livestock bedding, compost, fertilizer and nutrients.
In 2011, the state passed a law that said if a business generates more than two tons of waste per week, they have to recycle it.
“So this is a very new form of recycling,” said Paganini. “Food waste no longer ends up in landfills, which creates greenhouse gasses.”
Quantum uses a virtual net metering program, which offers financial incentives to state, municipal and agricultural customers to encourage the installation of facilities like Quantum. VNM allows customers who operate behind-the-meter generation (the host, i.e. Quantum) to assign surplus production from their generator to other metered accounts (beneficial accounts, i.e. the police department) that are not physically connected to the host’s generator.
“If you make renewable energy, [the state] will measure that electricity you make and credit it back to the town,” Paganini said.
Quantum partners with commercial generators — such as restaurants, schools, and water treatment facilities – from around Connecticut and even some neighboring states to collect their organic materials. Although they are limited to commercial generators, Paganini said, “We are not too far off from being able to collect on a residential level.”
Quantum worked with the town to get the project built and running. Looking ahead, they seek other projects in town and will continue to build and provide renewable energy.
“We chose to build in Southington because the town is very progressive and has a forward-thinking energy vision,” said Paganini. “Without the support of the Town Council, the citizens and the town managers – both Garry Brumback and now Mark Sciota – this would never have happened.”
“I hope that Quantum’s growth in Southington continues, and certainly the town of Southington values its partnership with them,” said Sciota.
Last year, the U.S. produced 60 million tons of food waste, and only a fraction was recycled, according to Quantum’s website. At full capacity, Quantum’s Southington facility will generate 420,000 cubic feet of biogas, equivalent to about 5,080 tons per year of carbon dioxide avoidance—which is comparable to 572,000 gallons of gasoline burned, 5.42 million pounds of coal burned, 750 homes’ electricity use for one year, or car emissions from 1,073 cars.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.