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Monday, July 27, 2009 

"Carmelized" Energy...brings tears to my eyes

I had no idea that onions could produce juice...of the energy type. Looks like Gills Onions is crying all the way to the bank with their new energy recovery system. Perhaps they will be running "rings" around the competition!

Gills processes as many as a million pounds of onions a day at its Oxnard facility, which employs about 400 people and is the largest onion processor in the country. Its daily work generates about 300,000 pounds of onion waste, but a new energy recovery system at Gills turns what was once thrown away into clean heat and electricity and valuable cattle feed. The system generates 600 kilowatts of electricity.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s been one my goals for my whole life to take care of this waste,” Gill told the Business Times.

Gill’s investment will pay for itself in about six years. The plant has been online for a few weeks, and once he proves it works, he’ll get a $2.7 million check from the Southern California Gas Co., which is administering money from a state program designed to encourage big users to generate their own energy.

Before the new fuel-cell plant, Gills put its waste out onto fields, where it generated carbon dioxide and methane as it decomposed. The process also cost a lot of money in diesel fuel to transport the waste, tipping fees to dump it and labor to spread it. Turning the waste into energy instead will save the company $700,000 in electricity costs, $400,000 in land-application costs and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30,000 tons annually.

...Gills Onions is in the midst of a host of other green-minded activities. It recently signed on with the California Climate Action Registry and is gathering information for a baseline measure of its greenhouse gas emissions.

Once that baseline is complete, the public will be able to view it along with improvements the company makes. Oxnard-based Agromin is a member of the group, as are the cities of Thousand Oaks, Ventura and Santa Barbara. Gills is also working with the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Four graduate students there are working with the firm on drawing up a plan to make Gills Onions a zero-waste company. - Pacific Coast Business Times

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