LI Compost lands anaerobic digester project

An anaerobic facility at Michigan State University. The Long Island project should be running by next August.

One of New York State’s most innovative and ambitious sustainable-energy projects will be centered on Long Island.

An anaerobic digester – which converts food waste, grass clippings and other organic byproducts that would otherwise clog up landfills into clean energy, water and fertilizers – will be installed at Long Island Compost Corp.’s 62-acre Yaphank facility. The digester, which is projected to be operational by August 2016, will be operated by Westbury-based American Organic Energy, Long Island Compost’s parent company.

When completed, the digester will be capable of annually processing 120,000 tons of food waste, 30,000 tons of fats, oils and greases, and 10,000 tons of grass clippings, in the process reducing Long Island’s regional greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 40,000 tons – equivalent to removing over 8,100 cars from Island roads, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

“We are dedicated to building nothing less than the most sophisticated food-waste-processing facility in the world,” Charles Vigliotti, CEO of American Organic Energy and cofounder of Long Island Compost, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, American Organic Energy announced new corporate alliances with GE and fertilizer giant ScottsMiracle-Gro that factor into the digester operation. American Organic Energy is partnering with GE for “water cleanup and nutrient-recovery” operations, Vigliotti noted, and with ScottsMiracle-Gro for marketing and distribution of fertilizers produced by the Yaphank project.

“The investment by American Organic Energy in anaerobic digester technology ushers in a new way to transform even more local waste material into a reusable nutrient supply,” noted Jim Hagedorn, chairman and CEO of Ohio-based ScottsMiracle-Gro. “[This] is a tremendous value as we continue our steps to provide an array of organic solutions for consumers.”

Anaerobic digestion is a biological process through which organic matter is decomposed by bacteria in the absence of oxygen. Resulting gases can be used to generate energy in place of traditional fossil fuels, while resulting water can be cleaned and used for irrigation purposes.

Once completed, the digester – the largest of its kind in the state, according to the governor – will be self-sufficient. The electricity required to run it will come from the biogases it produces, with enough left over to supplement other power needs at Long Island Compost’s Yaphank facility.

Project officials also plan to convert excess gases into fuel for Long Island Compost trucks used on-site, reducing the company’s diesel-fuel consumption by 200,000 gallons annually, according to the governor’s office.

Cuomo said the “first-of-its-kind project for Long Island and the New York metropolitan area” advances his administration’s commitment to renewable energies and reducing the state’s carbon footprint.

The project is also supported by the Cleaner, Greener Communities program, part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative effort between New York and eight other Eastern Seaboard states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Amy Engel, executive director of Sustainable Long Island, called the digester project “a fantastic private-public partnership” and a “great example of the direction we should be going in.”

“Reducing what goes into our waste stream and reducing what goes to our landfills is the best way to go,” Engel told Innovate LI. “Long Island has suffered from having all of these landfills and having to truck waste off the Island, and the fact that we can get clean energy from a project like this is terrific.

“It’s innovative that the governor’s office is working with GE and ScottsMiracle-Gro on projects like this,” she added. “The governor’s office has made significant progress regarding sustainable energy and NYSERDA has done some tremendous work.”