Turning Earth waiting for state approval to build food waste to energy

A company that hopes to turn food and yard waste into electricity and compost could begin construction early next year on Spring Street.

Turning Earth is waiting on a key approval from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection but expects to receive that “any day now,” according to company co-founder Amy Kessler.

Delays in receiving regulatory approval for unique energy-producing processes has pushed back construction. Company officials had hoped to begin construction this year.

Quantum Biopower, a food-waste to energy facility on DePaolo Drive, ran into similar delays. That company held a ribbon cutting ceremony earlier this week, though it may be a month or two before the plant begins operations.

Turning Earth utilizes a different method then Quantum Biopower, according to Kessler, drawing on proprietary technology from Denmark.

Food waste from grocery stores, large cafeterias and conference centers will be mixed with compostable organic materials, such as yard waste such as leaves, wood and grass clippings. That mixture will be stored in sealed containers and sprayed with a solution, drawing out nutrients consumed by the microbes that will produce burnable bio-gas. Oxygen is then introduced to that anaerobic process to heat the mixture and begin turning it into compost which will be sold by the facility.

Once Turning Earth is operational, it’ll still take a few months for those processes to begin before the plant will begin to sell compost or produce electricity with the bio-gas it creates.

Kessler said the plant will be able to produce 1.4 megawatts of power annually.

Dennis Schain, spokesman for DEEP, said he expected the department to act on the company’s permit “in the near future.”

Schain said the department has a goal of removing 60 percent of organic and food waste from the garbage by 2024. Forty percent of trash by weight is food waste.

“This is really vital,” he said. “Organic waste makes up a significant percentage of the waste stream.”

A 2013 law mandated major food waste producers within 20 miles of an organics recycling facility to recycle their waste. Those producers will be charged a fee per truckload of material but Kessler declined to say what the fee would be.

Construction of the plant will take between nine and 12 months. Kessler hopes the plant, which is expected to cost nearly $20 million, will be operational by the end of 2017 or early 2018.

A 37-acre parcel on Spring Street slated for the plant is owned by developer John Senese. Kessler said Turning Earth will buy the land.

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