PO Box 1070, Frankfort, KY 40602 Phone 502.875.2428, Fax 502.875.2845
An Alternative To The Star Energy/Heaven Hill Anaerobic Digester Proposal Posted: January 8, 2016
In discussion with the principals of Nature’s Methane and their counsel, KRC has expressed concern that the location of the proposed biodigester near the Heaven Hill distillery might not be optimal, given the necessity of trucking in organic wastes beyond the stillage piped from Heaven Hill in order to achieve the appropriate blend of organics to support an anaerobic digester of the size and throughput being proposed by the company. As noted by Nature’s Methane in response to questions posed by the KRC, “due to the minimum contract obligations for renewable natural gas the size of the AD system was always envisioned as a full-scale system that would utilize feedstock from the greater Louisville area.” The transportation of organic wastes from the greater Louisville area into this west end neighborhood has engendered strident opposition both from some elected officials and organizations representing west Louisville residents and concerns. And while advocates of the 17th and Maple location have indicated that it would remove some 20 trucks/day from the roads as the HH stillage would be piped to the new facility, up to 10 tanker trucks per day could be bringing other organic wastes into the neighborhood.
A comparison of the location of the only other anaerobic digester that any of the principals in Nature’s Methane have managed – the two digesters at the Fair Oaks Farm in Fair Oaks, Indiana, which NM COO Mark Stoermann formerly managed, and that of the three proposed biodigesters at 17th and Maple, reflects a stark distinction between the sparsely populated surroundings in Fair Oaks (with the closest neighbors being two homes, each located some 2,000 feet away from the facility) and the 17th and Maple location, where there are some 23 homes within 800-feet of the facility.
KRC believes that, rather than locate the facility in west Louisville, that land located near the Outer Loop and west of I-65, adjacent to the landfill along Grade Lane or on property that was formerly residential but it now under the control of the Louisville Renaissance Zone Corporation (LRZC), should be considered as a far more appropriate location for a facility that would be serving a regional rather than solely a local need.
The LRZC alone has approximately 210 acres available, and is located within two miles of two interstate highways and a major rail line (CSX Osborn Yard and Intermodal Terminal). The LRZC is located at the southwest quadrant of the Outer Loop and I-65. Immediately to the north of the Outer Loop, and across from the entrance to the LRZC, is the Outer Loop Landfill that is owned and operated by Waste Management of Kentucky.
Additionally, there is industrially-zoned property near to the Outer Loop Landfill that would be more appropriate than the west end location.
The location of a biodigester facility at this location would be preferable to the proposal to locate adjacent to the Heaven Hill Distillery for these reasons:
1. Avoidance of the appearance (and reality) of waste material being hauled into the west end for “treatment.” The historical relationship of the industrial community with the west end has been one of “dumping” land use proposals that would not appear appropriate in similarly situated neighborhoods elsewhere in the community, and at this stage, it appears unlikely that the proposed location at 17th and Maple will be accepted as appropriate or beneficial to the community.
2. The WKM landfill has a limited lifespan (i.e. remaining capacity) and is landlocked. The community has a short- and long-term interest in conserving the remaining airspace in order to assure that the solid waste disposal needs of Metro Louisville can be met in the future. Location of the biodigester near the WKM landfill would allow for eventual separation of collection and management of organic wastes from residential and commercial establishments, and diversion some or all of those wastes to the biodigester. Recovery of the value of the organics through controlled anaerobic digestion is preferred to the less-efficient anaerobic decomposition process that occurs in a modern municipal solid waste (contained) landfill such as the WKM landfill, and will result in production of nutrient-rich residual material that could be utilized by Metro Government or sold to third parties for use in agricultural, silvicultural, or landscape application.
In an article in a recent edition of LEO, Keith Hackett, Division Director for Waste Management, said that the ongoing discussion has lost sight of the bigger picture.
“I’m going to be very honest people, at the end of the day we’re all going to have to divert waste from the landfill,” said Hackett. “Twenty percent of the landfill is food waste, and the mayor’s goal is to reduce all food waste in Louisville by 90 percent by 2042. So in the big picture we all need to do our part.”
With due respect, if the NM biodigester is being looked at as part of the effort to divert waste from the landfill, the location of such a biodigester adjacent to or close to the landfill makes eminently more sense, since such a location could be much more easily integrated into the present collection system – collection trucks already haul Metro waste to the landfill, and the collection process could be altered to make “dry” waste collection runs to the landfill and “organic” waste collection runs to the biodigesters using existing equipment and routes.
3. Since the economic viability of the project depends on production of a certain threshold of dekatherms of natural gas and transportation of the produced gas into the interstate natural gas pipeline system, the location is excellent since interstate gas pipelines are located within close proximity to I-65 and the Outer Loop.
4. UPS announced in April 2015 that it intends to significantly increase the number of tractors and delivery vehicles in its fleet that use CNG (compressed natural gas). One of the principals in Nature’s Methane, COO Mark Stoermann, was the project manager for the Fair Oaks Farms anaerobic digestion projects that include two digesters as well as electrical generation, renewable natural gas production and a fleet of CNG powered milk trucks that deliver milk to processing plants in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. The location would be ideal for cleaning and selling the gas to UPS for their use.
5. Finally, diversion of organic wastes from the municipal solid waste stream will likely result in lower numbers of scavenging avian species, thus reducing the possibility of collision between air flights and such species.