Israeli trash-to-gas tech to make power for NC

Bluesphere’s anaerobic generator plants produce not just electricity, but cleaner environments, the company says

Trash collectors work at a dump outside Jerusalem (Photo credit: Kobi Gideon / Flash90)
Trash collectors work at a dump outside Jerusalem (Photo credit: Kobi Gideon / Flash90)

Bluesphere, an Even Yehuda-based waste-to-energy company, announced Wednesday that it was in the final stages of planning for the construction of a 5.2 megawatt (MW) Israeli-designed waste-to-energy project in Charlotte, North Carolina, with the fuel for the plant coming from the dump, among other places.

Bluesphere develops, builds and manages waste-to-energy plants, generating electricity and selling it to local utilities. The anaerobic digestion technology that Bluesphere plants are based on uses organic waste, such as food and farm waste that would normally go into landfills, as fuel. 

Organic waste, much of it uneaten food, is the largest single component in American landfills. As much as 40 percent of food, worth $165 billion, is thrown out annually in the United States. Besides food from homes and commercial sources, waste from industrial production of food products, such as bones, skins, fat and other inedible portions, are also found in significant amounts in landfills. Once in the landfill, these organic products deteriorate, providing food for vermin and generating methane.

Bad enough that the food is wasted, says Shlomi Palas, CEO of Bluesphere, but why let it rot? With Bluesphere’s technology, organic waste can be turned into biogas, which can be used to generate electricity. The Bluesphere plants take in feedstock (any organic waste material), which is broken down with anaerobic bacteria and turned into biogas, with compost a by-product. The gas is then pumped to an electrical generation plant, which uses it to power the steam turbines used in electricity production. While anaerobic gas-to-electricity production is not new, Bluesphere developed techniques to ensure that the process is faster, more efficient and generates the maximum amount of methane (the level of which determines the “energy power” of the biogas), the company says. The company’s facility would generate revenues from intake of organic waste, the sale of clean, renewable electricity and the sale of compost.

The Charlotte plant is set to be Bluesphere’s first to come online in the US when it opens in 2015, to be followed by another plant in Rhode Island. By 2018, the company expects to have 11 facilities built, with six more under construction and development. This accomplishment would be a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of alternative energy production, said the company; while interest in the technology is growing in the US, there are only 202 anaerobic biogas generation facilities in the country, as compared to over 7,000 in Germany alone.

Bluesphere said that it is getting $13.8 million in debt project financing for the plant from a Fortune 500 company, with a leading environmental finance fund contributing equity project financing of $9.1 million. One of the largest power holding companies in the US signed a long-term contract with Bluesphere to purchase electricity generated at the Charlotte plant. Compost will be purchased, under a contractual agreement, by one of the largest privately held composting companies in the world.

The announcement, said Palas, “is an incredible milestone in the development of this project. From today and onward, there will now be constant activity on the project until it starts producing power in the summer of 2015. We have started the project on time and will produce and deliver power on schedule. This facility is a model for future Bluesphere projects.”

Click below for a video playlist explaining waste-to-energy production:

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