Saturday, January 17, 2009

Muskegon County Board ponders saving from wind, waste

I came across this article this morning in the Muskegon Chronicle. With the economy in shambles I can understand the County Commissioners looking for to conserve energy, however, neither of these are going to be viable solutions in the long run. This is something that every citizen of Muskegon County should study and give their input to their elected Commissioner.

by Brian McVicar | The Muskegon Chronicle
Friday January 16, 2009, 6:09 AM

The Muskegon County Board of Commissioners is considering two renewable energy proposals proponents say could boost revenue and trim the county's electricity bills.

On Tuesday, commissioners -- meeting as the board of public works -- gave the green light to proceed with development of the two proposals.

One could eventually give the county the ability to convert numerous gallons of restaurant waste into marketable fuels such as biodiesel. The other could lead to the county erecting three wind turbines at the county wastewater system property, a move that could reduce the $2.5 million the county spends on powering the wastewater systems facilities.

Although both proposals still are in the planning stages, county commissioners praised both concepts.

"I think they show some really great possibilities for the future," said Commissioner Marve Engle. "I think it's important we explore all the possibilities out there." FULL STORY.

Here is one comment to this story.

Posted by igneous on 01/16/09 at 11:37AM
I am surprised that there is not more awareness on the part of the County regarding the state of development and commercialization of yellow grease (e.g.,restaurant waste grease)conversion to biodiesel. There have been ads in the Chronicle and other places for "restaurant grease wanted" for a few years. There are even companies that have contracts to pick up waste restaurant grease locally to convert it to biodiesel. Making biodiesel from vegetable oil or waste grease is pretty simple. One can buy home kits to do it. It's pretty old technology in that the soap companies have been doing it for many decades, just not calling it "biodiesel", which was a term coined in the late 1970s.

The County would be better off finding a company who would be interested in picking up the waste grease and stay out of manufacturing. Just eliminating waste grease from the landfill and County waste processing facility, by having someone pick it up for recycling, is good for the County.

I know consultants who have extensively studied the economics of making biodiesel from yellow grease and vegetable oil. The economics fail if the price of vegetable oil, which fluctuates significantly, rises too high and there is not a government subsidy to support the cost of manufacture. And biodiesel plants based on yellow grease have a tougher time if there is not a large source of restaurants in the area of the conversion plant. Yellow grease operations are more likely to be profitable if they are sited near metropolitan areas, e.g., Chicago, Grand Rapids.

The County should not be investing in capital projects such as biodiesel operations and wind generators. In the case of wind generators, they could trade siting for electricity and let someone else invest in the wind generator and marketing of the excess power the County does not buy. The County should, in my opionion, be focused on providing opportunity for others to invest in Muskegon by providing services and resources.

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