December 04, 2013

Largest Dry Fermentation Anaerobic Digestion Facility in the World Opens

A grand opening event took place Friday, November 22 for the world’s largest dry fermentation anaerobic digestion facility and the first large-scale commercial facility of its kind in the United States. The facility in San José will process an estimated 90,000 tons per year of commercial organic waste that would otherwise go to landfill, instead converting it to 1.6MW of renewable energy and 32,000 tons compost.

Owned and operated by Zero Waste Energy Development Company (ZWEDC), the anaerobic digestion facility is a joint venture between GreenWaste Recovery and Zanker Road Resource Management. The companies came together to take organics recovery to the next level—composting organic material to keep it out of landfill while extracting its energy value.

“Our company started to transform the way we look at waste,” said Rich Cristina, President of ZWEDC and host of the event. Cristina told the 600+ crowd, “We saw there was no such thing as waste, no such thing as garbage. We looked at the materials collected and being composted and saw the potential for greatness.”

Another firm, Zero Waste Energy, LLC (ZWE) holds the exclusive license for the patented anaerobic digestion technology in the Americas and Asia with 20 projects in the planning and development phase throughout North and South America, as well as China and the Middle East. The facility is enclosed and ventilated and includes 16 anaerobic digesters plus four in-vessel composting tunnels. Dry fermentation anaerobic digestion is a natural biological process whereby bacteria break down organic matter in an oxygen-free environment. Decomposition occurs in several stages and converts organic matter into a combustible biogas with a high methane content.

Eric Herbert, CEO of ZWE, was on hand to explain the technology. “We’re sitting in an organic waste processing facility,” said Herbert. “We’re doing what nature does, very efficiently in a controlled way. The significance of this facility is the demonstration of this technology in the U.S. on a major commercial scale. But organic waste and its proper treatment and green energy is what this project is all about.”

The ZWEDC facility models how to reduce landfill statewide and worldwide. The high-quality compost produced will be used to enrich soils, and the renewable biogas will provide both onsite power and power for sale to local users of green energy. Development of the ZWEDC facility moves San José closer to achieving its goal of zero waste to landfill by 2022.

City of San José Mayor Reed spoke about the city’s implementation of its Green Vision, saying, “Our Green Vision has ten bold goals. One of those goals is to be a zero waste city. We already do the recycling part. What about the organics, the largest single category going into the waste stream? We knew we needed to be creative and innovative and build something like this.”

U.S. Congressman Mike Honda congratulated everyone involved with the project for helping future generations. “ The global production of organic waste is 600 billion tons per day, and here in this valley is how to address that global waste accumulating. Because of this first spot, this kind of sustainable activity can now grow in other parts of the country and other parts of the world.”

CalRecycle Director Caroll Mortensen delivered the facility’s official operating permit from the State and affirmed, “This it the type of project that Governor Brown and his administration sees as the future of California, attaining not just environmental goals but creating and sustaining jobs, renewable energy, fuel production, and diverting greenhouse gasses.”

The audience in attendance for the invite-only luncheon, presentations, and tours included elected officials from surrounding cities and counties, as well as business and industry groups representing construction, finance, nonprofits, and education.

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