Renewable Energy For Our Future

BIO-EN POWER INC.

7. Affordable and Clean Energy 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 13. Climate Action

Overview

BIO-EN produces energy and fertilizer from organic waste and uses a unique process to separate any garbage that might have been included in the organics. The organic waste is then turned into fertilizer and the emissions from this process are turned into energy. This process is known as anaerobic digestion and falls in line with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, such as affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.

Author

Ryan Palvetzian

Ryan Palvetzian

School

University of Guelph

University of Guelph

Professor

Ruben Burga

Ruben Burga

Innovation

BIO-EN has two different branches of the company including Woolwich BIO- EN which takes organic waste and effectively creates fertilizer and energy, and BIO-EN POWER which builds plants for other companies. Composting only produces fertilizer from organics whereas BIO-EN produces both fertilizer and energy. BIO-EN harnesses methane emissions during the decomposing process to create energy. Biogas is not a new concept but BIO-EN specializes in taking dirty organics and turning them into clean organics. As Derek Martin (plant manager) said, "we can minimize downtime, and that’s what the industry really needs.”

This idea originally gained a foothold in Europe but is fairly new to North America, with BIO-EN as one of the newcomers. Chuck Martin (president), Earl Brubacher (general manager), and Mr. Piller helped build what BIO-EN is today. Chuck Martin was involved in the legalities of getting the company started, Earl Brubacher was largely involved in the design of the facility, and Mr. Piller helped with bringing this idea forward in the original conceptual stage.

BIO-EN's mission is all about helping the world, which is a big motivator for their employees. As Derek Martin stated, “what keeps you going and provides value and meaning here is the idea that every day we come into work and we do this, were making the world a better place...You can have a business that improves the world.”

Renewable Energy For Our Future

Inspiration

Since the birth of BIO-EN, their goal is to produce clean energy from organic waste and be the most reliant and consistent company to do so. This idea and technology of creating clean energy from organic waste already existed in Europe but BIO-EN is one of very few companies to start doing this in North America. Derek Martin stated that, “up until the last 10 years, there hasn’t been anything like this in North America.” North America’s organic waste presents unique material challenges. BIO-EN saw an opportunity to become the company that is the best at turning dirty organics into clean organics; therefore, the creators of BIO-EN saw an opportunity to make a name for themselves in North America by consistently producing clean energy from organic waste.

The purpose and motivation for this innovation is based on an increasing issue, diminishing landfill space, and creating resources from a waste stream. BIO-EN employees put in lots of effort to keep the company successful, and their major motivator is having a positive impact on the world. Another key motivator for BIO-EN is making sure they maintain a profit. Derek Martin stated that “making a profit while making the world a better place is a pretty good feeling,” and BIO-EN is on the right path to continue doing just that.

Overall impact

BIO-EN's use of anaerobic digestion has a great impact on business, society, and the environment. In regards to their business, Derek Martin stated that the impact of their innovation has given them the chance to “minimize downtime,” and efficiently “handle materials that are full of plastic and foreign objects.” Moreover, when it comes to the impact on society, he stated that “we are creating a resource out of waste. That’s exactly what this facility is about.” A huge issue is landfill odour and “we’re incentivized from an emissions standpoint and a community ethics point of view to move these organics and deal with it better.”

Regarding the impact on the environment, the main point is that BIO-EN has a fully carbon neutral facility that displaces commercial fertilizer which is a very carbon intensive process and reduces sulfur and methane’s negative impact on the environment. This innovation has both short-term and long-term effects. In the short term, Derek stated “we are getting the organics out of the landfill” which is a very immediate process. In the long-term, their displacement of commercial fertilizer has a positive impact on the greenhouse effect. The advantage to their innovation in the long term is that it is a constant and steady renewable energy.

The impacts of anaerobic digestion, shown through concrete evidence, is that BIO -EN receives 70,000 tons of organic waste a year, and that waste didn’t go to a landfill. Derek takes pride in their renewable energy that substitutes organic waste for energy. Furthermore, they produce 2.8 megawatts per hour each day. Produced from nothing else but the scraps of other people’s waste.

Business benefit

BIO-EN's business benefit is broken down perfectly into one statement, which Derek said “We are a for profit organization. That’s the way the world needs to move, let’s incentivize people to make money while helping the planet as opposed to destroy it”. BIO-EN benefits business by earning revenues through multiple channels. Obviously, BIO-EN sells its valuable clean energy to local utility, but it also can build a custom anaerobic digestion plant built specifically for its customer’s needs. Every site is unique and BIO-EN understands that the right kind of digester is required to produce the energy that its customers need. As long as there is a large supply of organic waste to dispose of and a demand for the energy that is made, BIO-EN can build an Anaerobic digestion plant. BIO-EN can also fully operate a plant for its customers with their own European-certified plant operators who get the best out of the plant day in and day out. This is one of the many ways that BIO-EN stands out from the growing crowd of the renewable energy scene, not only making a profit for itself but also providing a more cost effective destination for organics. Biogas produces consistent reliable electricity, whereas other renewables only make power when the conditions are right. BIO-EN continues to benefit business by supporting employment to the sustainable energy sector which encourages more people to be trained and plan to work in this industry. The ultimate goal would be to save energy, reducing the carbon footprints while expanding the use of biogas.

Social and environmental benefit

Organic waste is both a social and environmental issue, because of the release of emissions that happens whether the energy is harnessed or not. Methane is released from organic matter which now is wasted away in landfills and even in compost. The bad smell devalues lands around those sites while the methane emissions are released into the atmosphere contributing toward the greenhouse gas effect. Being part of the first movement of biogas energy in North America, it is important for both society and the environment because the innovations that they produce today pave the way for future growth in the green energy sector. Biogas is a very flexible energy source that can be put into a wide range of uses from generating electricity, replacement of natural gas, fueling any type vehicle fleet as well as being used to produce industrial grade heat and steam. The BIO-EN plant in Elmira, Ontario takes organic material and can produce 2.8 megawatts per hour. Over a calendar year they can take 70,000 tons of organic matter that would’ve otherwise gone to waste, contributing to the greenhouse gas effect and turns it into 24,460.8 mega-watts of useable energy. One issue that the biogas industry has yet to overcome has been the difficulty to separate the inorganic matter that gets mixed into the organic mass. BIO-EN has been innovating to work past this problem and has been able to operate with 25% inorganic material mixed in which separates them from any other plant in North America. BIO-EN is an extremely positive company that enhances our society and improves the natural environment as well. Short term goals for BIO-EN are currently pulling organics out of landfills, while long term goals include eliminating greenhouse gasses that come from organic waste. Operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, BIO-EN is working to produce a world where “Instead of depleting a resource, they are trying to strike a balance”.

Interview

Derek Martin, Plant Manager

Photo of interviewee

Keep this story going! Share below!

BIO-EN POWER INC.

BIO-EN POWER INC.

Elmira, Ontario, CA

Business Website: http://www.bio-enpower.com/

Year Founded: 2005

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

BIO-EN produces energy and fertilizer from organic waste and uses a unique process to separate any garbage that might have been included in the organics. The organic waste is then turned into fertilizer and the emissions from this process are turned into energy. This process is known as anaerobic digestion and falls in line with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, such as affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption and production, and climate action.