In Greenfield, Massachusetts, the regions first community-owned biodiesel plant will be opening in early 2016. The plant, Northeast Biodiesel, LLC, will generate clean biodiesel fuel from recycled vegetable oil collected from local restaurants, schools, and institutions. The plant will initially produce 1.75 million gallons, with an expansion to 3.5 million gallons within a year.
Co-op Power, a consumer-owned sustainable energy cooperative, is investing $3.5 million toward building the plant that will eventually employe 14 people who will also have shares in the cooperative. There will also be a number of indirect jobs supported by the plant including construction and facility maintenance, pick-up and delivery of recycled oil, and trucking to bring in other raw materials distribute the finished product. Co-op Power members own 73% of the plant, making it the majority owner.
Co-op Power CEO Lynn Benander says the plant will convert the collected waste into millions of gallons of clean energy that can power both vehicles and homes.
“The way that biodiesel is clean is that it cuts the carbon emissions by 86 percent, cuts down particulate emissions over diesel fuel. So, it is a clean alternative to the fossil fuels that we are using to stay warm and get around.”
Northeast Biodiesel will not be the first refinery of this type in the region, but it will be the first that is locally owned. Co-op Power is owned by consumers all over New England and New York, but primarily in Massachusetts. They were particularly interested in helping to expand access to clean energy in an area that has had fairly limited access until now.
There was some initial interest in the project from outside investors, but Director of Community Shared Solar programs at Co-op Power Isaac Baker and fellow co-op officials decided it made more sense to keep the investment local in order to maximize the communities control. As he explained,
“Someone might decide to go and sell the asset to a foreign company, where we would have no control over who was receiving the lowest cost benefit, or whether or not the plant was just shut down. So, that’s what the cooperative brings.”
The biodiesel will be used to power diesel engines (such as those in cars, trucks, buses, and tractors) and oil heat systems (such as those in your home or business) in a more clean and sustainable way. Biodiesel is currently the only clean fuel alternative for oil heat systems and diesel engines.
Biodiesel is easy to incorporate into any diesel engine or oil heat system without having to make any modifications to the original system. It can be blended with regular diesel or even used purely in many cases. It runs cleaner than petroleum diesel fuel and because Northeast Biodiesel is using recycled oil feedstock, it has a lifecycle greenhouse gas emission profile showing an 86% reduction in climate-warming emissions over diesel and gasoline.
Northeast Biodiesel considers itself an engine for local economic development across the Northeast. Hopefully their example will inspire others to join the clean energy movement.