Onion power: California grower’s recovery system generates energy cleanly

163px-ARS_red_onion[1]Turning food into fuel? Who would have thought?!

Well, as far as I’m aware, that’s exactly what one California grower’s been doing since July 2009.

“… Gills Onions, the nation’s largest fresh onion processor, and developer of the onion juice-fueled Advanced Energy Recovery System” on Jul. 16, 2009 in a company press release announced plans to introduce AERS the next day at 10 a.m. at its Oxnard, California headquarters.

The grower in the release further explaining:

“By extracting the juice from onion waste and letting it ferment in a special processing system, Gills Onions can create enough ‘juice’ to power 460 homes through two 300-kilowatt fuel cells. The innovative and cost-saving technology converts 100 percent of 300,000 pounds of onion waste daily into ultra-clean electrical energy, heat, and high-value cattle feed, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 30,000 tons per year.”

One-hundred-fifty tons (300,000 pounds) of daily waste from onions amounts to, conservatively, somewhere in the neighborhood of 39,000 tons in a year (150 tons x 5 days x 52 weeks) of onion waste. Thirty-nine-thousand tons being 39,000 tons, that’s a lot of waste. Imagine if all that waste was going to a landfill instead. At Gills Onions it’s not and that’s the real beauty of AERS: the onion waste is staying out of the waste stream and is instead going towards energy production – ultra-clean energy production.

In the release, the company moreover wrote: “In the new world of renewable energy, California onion bulbs now will power light bulbs — the common vegetable has transitioned from a simple vegetable to a mini power plant.”

Think: onion power.

The Oxnard, California grower, being committed to sustainability, in a Feb. 4, 2010 press release stated: “Since 2008, Gills Onions has voluntarily measured, managed and reported its greenhouse gas emissions.”

Personally, I know of no other enterprise doing this – anywhere. On that February day, Gills Onions in the release announced that they had become Climate Registered™ “by The Climate Registry, a non-profit greenhouse gas emissions registry in North America.”

Are Gills Onions and the Advanced Energy Recovery System making a positive difference? I would say so!

Now, if only more businesses follow suit and they themselves become more environmentally conscious.

Photo credit: Stephen Ausmus, U.S.D.A. Agricultural Research Service

– Alan Kandel