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Unlocking the Power of Anaerobic Digestion: How Utility Companies Can Benefit

5 min read

As the world shifts towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, utility companies are at the forefront of adopting innovative technologies to meet growing energy demands while reducing their carbon footprint. One such technology that holds great promise is anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion uses a natural process to convert organic waste and generate carbon-negative renewable natural gas, offering significant environmental benefits and opportunities for utility companies. In this article, we will explore how utility companies can harness the power of anaerobic digestion to reap its numerous advantages.

Chomp Anaerobic Digester located on Vashon Island

1. Sustainable Energy Generation

Anaerobic digestion presents utility companies with a sustainable and renewable source of energy. By capturing and processing organic waste such as food scraps, agricultural residues and wastewater residues, anaerobic digesters produce biogas. This biogas can then be used to generate heat and electricity, providing a reliable and renewable energy source for utility companies. By incorporating anaerobic digestion into their energy mix, utilities can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and contribute to a greener future. If the digester is located at the customer’s address this resource can be generated onsite on the customer’s side of the meter. Biogas can also be upgraded to vehicle-grade or pipeline-grade renewable natural gas. 

2. Waste Management and Pollution Reduction

By supporting the increased adoption of anaerobic digestion, utility companies are helping to divert food waste from landfills, where it decomposes and emits harmful greenhouse gasses. Converting this food waste into valuable biogas and nutrient-rich biofertilizer helps to lower emissions and has a positive climate impact. Some examples of partners that utility companies can work with to put food waste to beneficial use include waste haulers, schools, food manufacturers, farming facilities, universities, food sellers, and more. Everywhere we look we can find a plethora of food waste, past-ripe, and ready to be converted into valuable resources. We focus on the 40% of our food supply that never gets eaten. To us, this is a misplaced resource.  

3. Revenue Generation

Anaerobic digestion not only provides utilities with a sustainable energy source but also presents an opportunity for additional revenue streams. Utility companies can enter into agreements with waste producers, such as farms, food processing plants, or commercial kitchens to collect their organic waste for anaerobic digestion. These organic waste diversion partnerships can generate revenue through waste disposal fees, energy sales, or the sale of digestate as a high-quality biofertilizer. By tapping into these diversified revenue streams, utility companies can enhance their financial performance and strengthen their position in the market.

4. Enhanced Grid Stability and Flexibility

The integration of anaerobic digestion facilities within utility infrastructure can contribute to grid stability and flexibility. Biogas is a consistent renewable energy source and can be stored and used to generate electricity during peak demand periods or to support the grid when other renewable energy sources are not producing. The ability to dispatch biogas-powered generation as needed ensures a reliable power supply. In some cases it can be viewed as a strategy to reduce grid demand, similar to efficiency programs.

5. Environmental and Community Impact

By promoting and adopting anaerobic digestion, utility companies can make substantial environmental and social contributions. For example, the reduction of methane emissions from organic waste decomposition helps combat climate change. On-site anaerobic digestion also reduces trucking, noise, odor, and other nuisances to communities. Utility companies that prioritize these initiatives also foster positive relationships with local communities, demonstrating their commitment to sustainability and addressing environmental concerns.

By investing in anaerobic digestion, utility companies not only contribute to a more sustainable energy future but also position themselves as leaders in decarbonization. The time is ripe for utility companies to embrace the power of anaerobic digestion and unlock its vast potential.

Chomp Powers National Grid

National Grid, a utility company that’s working with Chomp, is funding an anaerobic digester pilot program to work towards a more efficient energy grid in the US. Sander Cohan, National Grid’s Head of US Innovation, asks, “What if we can make renewable energy where the customer needs it, rather than having to ship it all over the country and all over the world?. What technologies can help us meet this challenge and meet this need? With this goal in mind, the Innovation team hit on a creative way to create renewable natural gas using anaerobic digestion.”

Later this year, Chomp will deliver the first National Grid anaerobic digester pilot, to Essex North Shore Agricultural & Technical School in Danvers, MA. The campus will use its food waste to create renewable energy to use as a heat source and biofertilizer that will be used onsite in greenhouses, orchards, and agriculture in the surrounding area. Rarely does a technology offer an opportunity to educate students about carbon, energy, zero waste, recycling, soil, water, greenhouse gasses, science, engineering, and climate change simultaneously. This one does. This project will help National Grid ignite the transition to renewable energy across the country. Learn more about this project here.

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