A facility in Yaphank that will convert food waste into renewable natural gas and fertilizer is expected to be completed and ready to accept material by the end of 2024, its developer says.
American Organic Energy broke ground last year on an anaerobic digester facility to handle up to 180,000 tons of food waste and 30,000 tons of grease, oils, and fats a year.
The indoor facility will process food scraps that would otherwise be disposed of in landfills. It will be located on nine acres of a 62-acre site on Horseblock Road occupied by AOE’s sister company, Long Island Compost.
The facility will become operational as the Town of Brookhaven’s landfill on Horseblock Road nears capacity. The landfill is expected to stop receiving commercial and demolition debris by 2024 and incinerated household waste by 2028.
“This facility can’t open soon enough,” said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which supports the project. “It is going to be a huge asset for Long Island.”
Food waste accounts for about 17 percent of Long Island’s waste stream, Esposito said.
The waste-to-energy project “reduces the need for the landfill,” she said. “It will reduce climate change emissions and will be good for societal good.”
The Brookhaven NAACP’s Climate and Environment Justice Committee, however, has concerns about the project, including the amount of truck traffic and truck exhaust fumes it will generate, as well as adding another project to an area it says is already overburdened with waste-related industry.
American Organic Energy’s facility will hold six to eight anaerobic digester tanks that will convert organic waste into more than 500,000 MMBTUs of natural gas. National Grid will distribute the natural gas along its network, said American Organic Energy CEO Charles Vigliotti.
After the gas is extracted, the remaining material will be turned into liquid fertilizer and fertilizer pellets that could benefit Long Island farmers. Vigliotti called the more than $150 million project “the most important waste and recycling facility on Long Island in 40 years.”
American Organic Energy is partnering with Viridi Energy on the project, which has received funding from New York Green Bank and grants from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and Empire State Development, the state’s economic development agency.
Vigliotti said the plant will reduce the need for “thousands of truck trips” to transport waste to landfills off Long Island.
The facility is expected to generate truck traffic of its own, resulting in 60 trips along Horseblock Road over the course of a 10-hour day, Vigliotti said.
The truck traffic, as well as a break on real estate taxes that American Organic Energy will receive from the Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, have raised the concern of the Brookhaven NAACP’s Climate and Environment Justice Committee.
“Although we support composting/anaerobic digesters as part of a comprehensive plan to deal efficiently and effectively with waste, the siting of waste infrastructure has to be done in a thoughtful way that accounts for the needs of the local community and is part of a fair distribution process,” the committee said in a statement. “There is already a glut of waste infrastructure in the South Country community, and the anerobic digester that is bringing 60 truckloads of waste per day into a community already overburdened by diesel fumes raises concerns within this context. This is a community that is looking for relief from waste infrastructure, and yet the [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation] and the [Town of Brookhaven] continue to dump more of these waste sites, all of which direct diesel truck traffic into our community on the backs of an already environmentally overburdened place to live.”
American Organic Energy’s Vigliotti said he engaged the community for a year before applying for permits.
“A project of this size and importance does not get approved in a vacuum,” he said.
This is the third project Viridi Energy has announced to turn waste into renewable energy so far this year, Viridi said in a June 20 press release. The other two projects are landfills in Marathon County, Wis., and Baldwin County, Ala. Viridi’s investors include Warburg Pincus, a New York private equity firm, and Green Rock Energy Partners.