Steps to install renewable energy systems for your facility

renewable energyUnlike non-renewable forms of energy such as fossil fuels, renewable energy systems utilize unlimited resources that are replenished time after time. Most countries are endowed with renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, small hydro, etc. Depending on what renewable energy resources are available in your location, it is important to determine their technical and economic potential before tapping the resource to produce energy such as heat, or electrical energy. This blog attempts to capture the steps to renewable energy for your home or business facility.

Steps to renewable energy systems

  1. Determine your renewable energy potential
  2. Assess the different renewable energy resources available to you based on location and site-specific parameters. For instance, biogas production is best suited for farms that regularly collect liquid, slurry, or semi-solid manure with little or no bedding.

    Any site with water drops and flows; natural waterfalls, small weirs/dams, and industrial flows can be potential sites for small hydropower that can be obtained from the flowing water on your site. To get the renewable energy potential for small hydro, you can start by determining the head (the vertical distance the waterfalls) and the flow rate i.e. the quantity of water falling. To do this you can consult a small hydro specialist in your local area. We have captured below details on how to obtain a list of these renewable energy installers whether biogas or any other renewable energy installer.

    When it comes to solar power, determining the potential to install solar panels is much easier than for bioenergy or small hydro because of the easy access to online solar calculators that make it much faster to calculate your site-specific solar potential. EnergySage has a platform where online users can just plug in the address of their home or business in the USA to obtain their solar potential instantly. To learn more about how you can obtain your solar potential despite your location, check this article. Also, you can get in touch with a local solar professional to schedule a solar assessment.

    2. Energy efficiency first before installing renewable energy options Most countries have a good solar energy potential and hence solar power can be harnessed in almost every location on earth unlike wind, small-hydro or geothermal which are largely site-specific. However, before considering adopting a renewable energy system, it is advisable to perform an energy assessment of your home or business facility to understand your energy consumption profile. An energy audit will help to identify energy efficiency measures that can be implemented to reduce or eliminate any energy wastage. For instance, lighting system upgrades & controls (including LEDs) and buying or upgrading your home appliances to Energy Star appliances can result in huge significant savings for your home or business. Learn more here about energy efficiency.

    3. Identify renewable energy installers, renewable energy rebates, and incentives for your local area USA residents interested in going solar can consider the EnergySage to obtain multiple solar quotes from pre-screened solar installers. SunPower has some of the best solar panels in the world and has expanded operations to Europe, Asia, Asia Pacific, Australia, Africa, and the Middle East. Also, solar Business Hub provides a directory with a list of solar installers around the world.

    Renewable Energy Hub provides a platform for online users in the UK and USA for most renewable energy installers. For instance, Renewable Energy Hub USA enables people, communities, businesses, and institutions across America to connect with trusted, reliable advisers, and installers. Using this platform, you can learn all about current renewable energy technologies, energy-saving products, services, grants, federal and state incentives.

    Find out from relevant government authorities about renewable energy incentives or grants that you can benefit from to help reduce the cost of your renewable energy system even more. The initial capital investment required for your renewable energy install can often be perceived as somewhat daunting, there are various ways to reduce it using tax incentives and rebates. However, every renewable energy project is different, find more about how to reduce for instance the cost of your solar panels. Learn more here.

Sourcing 100% power from renewable energy sources.

renewable energy credits

With the increasing awareness of consumers wanting to go green and the need to fight climate change, the private sector has joined the government and the civil society in efforts to transitioning to clean energy.  

Well-known companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc have already achieved the 100% renewable electricity target to power their facilities around the world thus reducing their global carbon footprint.  

Other major companies like IKEA, Morgan Stanley, McKinsey & Company, etc are also in the process of transitioning to power their facilities using 100% renewable energy. To achieve this they must source all (100%) their electricity from renewable energy sources, including but not limited to biomass (including biogas), geothermal, solar, water and wind –either sourced from the market or self-produced

Many companies transition to powering their operations and facilities using 100% of electricity for three main reasons: 

  •  As an energy cost-saving measure:  Renewable energy projects may have high initial costs, but in the long-term help to hedge against the increasing electricity prices. 
  • The marketing value or the ability of a renewable energy project improving the brand or image of a company is an added advantage. 
  • With the climate change issue being raised at the global stage; many companies have set sustainability goals for reducing their carbon emissions. Going 100% renewables is one way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. 

Before a company decides to switch to 100% renewables, many companies evaluate their current energy use, including electricity and thermal.

Analyzing its annual electricity use and comparing the organization’s energy performance against peer facilities helps to understand energy use patterns and trends. With such information, it is easy to determine how much green power needs to be purchased or produced from an on-site power plant. 

Going 100% renewables calls for either buying from a utility company or onsite production of renewable energy.  On-site generation means a company developing its own renewable electricity source from renewable energy resources available at its facilities such as wind, solar resources, the availability of biomass fuel or landfill gas, etc. 

Renewable energy resources can be evaluated against other factors such as costs, design parameters, feasibility studies, local policies, and regulations to assess grid-connected renewable energy options. At this point, the organization wants to estimate whether it is possible to generate all its renewable energy from its available local energy resources. 

The second option is to find local supplies of renewable energy electricity and depending on the size of the organization, there are various sources such as EPA’s Green Power Locator, public utility commission, etc. 

When a company is not able to source all of its energy from a renewable energy source, the easiest option is to buy renewable energy certificates (RECs).  RECs are either sold by marketers or sometimes bought directly from renewable energy generators. 

RECs are issued when one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity is generated and delivered to the electricity grid from a renewable energy resource.  

RECs are very useful in overcoming a barrier to renewable facility development and hence the sales of RECs help those companies that may not be able to generate their own renewable energy power. 

Other companies or utilities when they produce renewable power, they generate RECs which is a tradable tool used by organizations to represent the environmental, non-power qualities of a unit of energy i.e. a permit to claim “green-ness” of a given energy source, with each REC certifying the generation of one MWh of renewable energy

Hence, it is possible to go 100% renewable energy even without developing your own renewable energy power, because companies can purchase RECs to claim their support to renewable energy.  

Even though company size, capital, or design issues, regulation, or renewable energy constraints may restrict companies from achieving this goal, but RECs is one option that is feasible and can be explored by companies wanting to claim that they are 100% powered by renewables.  

3degrees is one of the international companies that sell RECs to enable businesses, organizations, and individuals to reduce the environmental impact of their energy use and support renewable development. Remember, RECs allow companies to support renewable energy no matter where they source their power.

How profitable is biogas for food processing companies?

biogas generator

Why biogas? 

Farmers, food processing companies, and other stakeholders will have an important role to play when it comes to reducing food waste via the biogas generator.  Food waste is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of impact on global warming.

Food waste generated in the supply chain of producing any food product can be disposed of easily through a biogas generator. Biogas offers a win-win solution when it comes to food waste disposal and improving the brand of a specific farmer or food processing company.

However, not all situations will be profitable depending on site-specific characteristics of the biogas generator to be installed or the feedstock in question. As such, it is worth it, to take time to conduct a pre-feasibility analysis to determine how profitable the biogas plant will be from a life-cycle perspective.  For instance, the input and output parameters will need to be considered against the dollar value.

1. How does the capital investment compare to the income being generated by the plant:

Capital investment and the expected income to be generated with time will help to shed the light about the viability of the project in the long-term. Data analysis of the equipment and raw material cost plus transportation will help to determine the cost of the biogas generator.

However, in some cases, the raw material may be zero cost, especially if the farm or your food processing plant is generating enough waste or feedstock to feed into the Anaerobic Digester (AD). As a result, the return on investment (ROI), as well as the payback period, will be established to determine the cost-effectiveness of the biogas generator.

Capital costs and raw material inputs will vary depending on the size of the biogas generator. Capital costs will also include all costs relating to regulatory and permits, grid interconnection, project development cost, etc.

2. What value addition is added by biogas and income streams

The biogas generator will provide the farmer or the food processing company with various income streams which when quantified will shed light on the potential of the biogas plant. Some of the most important income streams will include:

  • Electricity costs avoided when it comes to electricity generated via the biogas generator
  • Electricity sold to the utility company through net-metering
  • Heating costs avoided by using the biogas generated by the biogas plant
  • Artificial fertilizer costs avoided by using the bio-fertilizer from the biogas generator.
  • Renewable energy credits generated by the biogas plant resulting from the methane (CH4) emissions reduced by biogas and the bio-fertilizer.

3. Savings on waste disposal cost

Since the biogas generator is helping to solve the food waste problem for you by adding value to the waste, you don’t need to worry about the disposal of your organic waste. Disposal of your waste using biogas technology has more environmental and economic benefits than composting or disposal in a landfill. You also save on transportation and other disposal costs related to food waste disposal.

4. Financing cost for the biogas generator

Because of the many benefits associated with biogas and the technology still being considered as new; the investment cost for small, medium and large sizes is to the tune of over 1 million dollars. As such, it is worthwhile to consider the cost of your financing to improve your ROI & payback period. For instance, what will be the debt cost, equity cost, etc. It will help to reduce the costs of your biogas plant if you understand the implications of getting a fair deal or a least-cost option that will not add extra costs to your overall investment. Taking time to consider these costs is an important factor in reducing capital costs.

5. Operation and maintenance costs of the biogas generator

Operation and maintenance costs will be variables that will depend on where the biogas generator is located and whether a sustained or continuous supply of feedstock is within reach. Hence, before the start of the biogas project, it will be important to make a critical inventory of the available organic feedstock types from the food waste in order to avoid transportation or collection costs for the feedstock in question.

In conclusion, depending on the site-specific features of your farm or food processing company, it is worth it to conduct a pre-feasibility study to determine the cost, revenues, and viability of your biogas project. You can contact us at support@reneenergy.com to learn more about a pre-feasibility study to investigate whether your farm or food processing company has a good potential for developing a biogas generator from food waste or organic waste.

Interested in going solar? Get started with this solar panel cost calculator to determine how much it can cost you to go solar and your estimated energy savings.

Turning food waste to energy using Anaerobic Digestion

biogas generator

Food waste is a global issue causing climate change.

Food waste is a global issue that has become a huge environmental issue over the last decade. In particular, food waste is a major source of methane (CH4) which is one of the most potent gases that is causing climate change. If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of impact on global warming. Hence, reducing food waste around the world would help curb emissions of planet-warming gases, lessening some of the impacts of climate change such as more extreme weather and rising seas.

Depending on how food waste is disposed of, it can cause negative environmental impacts. For instance, composting and landfilling are the most common methods of managing food waste, however, because of the growing population, future food waste management will be constrained by the scarcity of land and negative environmental impacts.

Landfills will be getting full, hence needing more land for food waste disposal while compositing has its own shortcomings since not all food waste can be composted. Compositing may cause health and safety concerns, especially if the basic rules of composting are not followed.

On the other hand, anaerobic digestion (biogas) is a technology that can help to reduce food waste while producing, heat, electricity, and bio-fertilizer.

As such, biogas has various useful uses or applications, for instance, it can be combusted directly in boilers to generate heat or combusted in internal or external combustion engines to produce electricity or used in combined heat and power (CHP) plants to produce heat and electricity.

Biogas can also be upgraded into bio-methane to be used as vehicle fuel in gas-powered vehicles. Biogas generator can also be used in the production of renewable energy to generate baseload energy for sustained energy use.

Anaerobic Digestion (AD) & food processing companies

The anaerobic digestion of food waste is a great method that can be used to treat waste whilst also producing energy in an efficient way and with very minimal environmental pollution.

Through a biological process, the organic carbon in food waste is converted to carbon dioxide and methane without the presence of oxygen.

The product which is biogas can be used as energy and is a mixture consisting of mainly carbon dioxide and methane with small amounts of other gases.

Feedstocks suitable for AD include a wide range of organic matter such as domestic and commercial food waste, municipal and industrial sewage, agricultural material and livestock manures that can be digested through AD. For example food waste in urban areas may include:

  • Lipid wastes (fats, oils & greases)
  • Simple carbohydrate wastes (bakery waste, brewery waste, & sugar-based solutions)
  • Complex carbohydrate wastes (fruit & vegetable waste and organic fraction of municipal solid waste (MSW)
  • Protein waste from dairy processing facilities
  • Other waste from commercial and industrial facilities.

In the USA, AD is commonly used to treat wastewater and manure treatment, however, this technology is commercial and has been deployed in the US for over 30 years. Also, the benefits of AD are tremendous, including renewable energy generation, greenhouse gas emission reductions, reduced water pollution, and a potential revenue stream created from waste.

Kroger Case Study: Kroger Processes Food Waste for Energy

A few food-processing companies in America have benefited from AD technology to convert their food waste to energy.  The Kroger Co., Los Angeles, applied its first anaerobic conversion system in 2013 to process more than 55,000 tons of organic food waste into renewable energy annually and provide power for the over 650,000 square food distribution center. This system helps to divert food waste –about 150 tons per day from the landfill. This is about 500,000 miles of truck landfill trips reduced each year.

A second AD technology plant was implemented at Kroger’s K.B. Specialty Foods plant, in Greensburg, Ind., which has been a Zero Waste facility since 2014, diverting more than 90 percent of waste produced from landfills every year. This 2nd AD biogas generator is estimated at $9.5 million.

According to Kroger, the implementation of these biogas generators is in line with their corporate goal of attaining zero-waste manufacturing goals.

Financing of AD biogas technology.

The main barriers to entry of AD in the market have been the high capital costs and low biogas prices. However, despite these barriers, biogas has several potential utilization application options such as heat production, power production, or combined heat and power (CHP) as captured above.

Because of the high capital cost of AD biogas generators in the agro-industrial sector, nowadays some biogas technology providers have developed innovative financing solutions such as third-party financing to help farmers, food companies, landowners, etc find ways of minimizing food waste while promoting environmental sustainability.

In such financing models, for instance, farmers may not have to invest in the development of the AD plant but could benefit from the benefits of the AD biogas generator. The technology provider pays for everything, they do all the work such as feasibility studies and construction of the biogas generator, etc while the farmer may enjoy long-term attractive feedstock contracts, long-term site rental payments or they can benefit from digestate (bio-fertilizer) offered to them for free – an opportunity to significant artificial fertilizer savings.

Other financing options for AD biogas technology would include loans and cash options that an end-user that has a good feasibility study can benefit from project financing from biogas technology providers or even local financing institutions.

If you are interested in knowing more about agro-industrial biogas generator, going solar or energy efficiency, please contact us at  support@reneenergy.com

Interested in going solar? Get started with this solar panel cost calculator to determine how much it can cost you to go solar and your estimated energy savings.

Get in touch to learn more about solar and renewable energy.



Going green through a biogas generator.

biogas generator

Going green involves activities that help to reduce waste when it comes to energy, food, water, and how we treat the environment in general.

When it comes to food waste, the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimate that about one third (1/3) of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year –approximately 1.3 billion tonnes –gets lost or wasted.  These food losses and waste translate to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.

Food wastage occurs at all stages of the food supply chains and in high-income countries, volumes of wasted food are higher in the processing, distribution, and consumption stages. In low-income countries, food losses occur in the production and post-harvesting phase, according to FAO.

Food wastage is a significant contributor to climate change.

According to FAO, 30 percent of food wasted globally across the supply chain, contributes to eight (8) percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. If food waste were a country, it would come in third after the United States and China in terms of impact on global warming. Hence, reducing food waste around the world would help curb emissions of planet-warming gases, lessening some of the effects of climate change, such as more extreme weather and rising seas.

Since the food wastage is taking place along the food supply chain before it is thrown to the landfill, improving food use and distribution channels through efficiency can reduce some of it. According to a study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), up to 14% of emissions from agriculture in 2050 can be avoided by managing food use and distribution better.

Avoiding food loss and waste may counteract the increasing food demand and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the agricultural sector. Just like going solar or implementing renewables and energy efficiency; reducing food waste is one of the essential things that can be done to reverse global warming.

For instance, Project Drawdown’s team of researchers ranked solutions to global warming, and cutting down on food waste has nearly the same impact on reducing emissions over the next three decades as onshore wind turbines. There is a potential to avoid more than 70 billion tons of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere.

We know that even with improving or managing the food supply chain better, we will still have food waste ending up in a landfill somewhere.  When food waste dumped away, it ends up buried in a landfill where it decomposes without oxygen and releases methane (CH4) – a harmful greenhouse gas that measures 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane (CH4) traps and absorbs heat that slowly over time causes global warming.  In the USA, for instance, landfills account for 34% of all methane emissions.

Landfilling and trapping of Landfill Gas (LFG)

Landfilling, which is the most common waste management practice results in the release of methane from the anaerobic decomposition of organic materials such as food waste.  Landfill gas (LFG) is a natural by-product of the decomposition of organic material in landfills and is composed of roughly 50% methane (the primary component of natural gas), 50% carbon dioxide (CO2) and a small amount of non-methane organic compounds. Instead of releasing methane gas in the atmosphere, it can be captured, converted, and used as a renewable energy resource.  It helps to mitigate climate change and reducing odors and other hazards associated with LFG gases.

Biogas generator as a solution to capturing methane (CH4)

Since landfills all require land that is filled up and needing more land, this is not a sustainable solution in the long-term. Biogas generator can be set-up at different stages of the food supply value chain to help reduce food waste or organic waste that ends up in a landfill. It will help to reduce filling up landfills and then needing more land for landfills.

biogas generator

As we have noted, food waste organic waste even with improving the management of the food supply chain will still have food wastage in the system which if not composted or treated using biogas generator systems will end up in a landfill. So organic waste is a huge environmental problem and a significant challenge to going green or even tackling the climate change issue. Biogas production from organic waste is an option for capturing methane before it goes to a landfill.

As such, the production of biogas through anaerobic digestion (AD) of food waste or digestible organic waste can convert these substrates into renewable energy. AD is a microbiological process of decomposition of organic matter, in the absence of oxygen, which has two main end products: biogas and digestate.

Biogas is a combustible gas consisting of methane, carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases and trace elements while digestate is rich in micro and macronutrients and suitable as a plant fertilizer.

Biogas installations are typical in many agricultural countries in both the developed and developing countries. Small-Scale biogas generators are family owned and used for cooking and lighting and common in Asia (China, India, Nepal & Vietnam). About millions of family-owned biogas digesters installed in these Asian countries.  In the developed world, thousands of agricultural biogas (Agro-industrial biogas generator) are common in Europe and North America where they are used mainly for renewable energy power generation or fuel for transportation.

Biogas is a renewable resource of energy because unlike fossil fuels, biogas from anaerobic digestion (AD) is produced by biomass, which is the living storage of solar energy through photosynthesis.

If you are interested in knowing more about agro-industrial biogas generator, going solar or energy efficiency, please contact us at  support@reneenergy.com

Interested in going solar? Get started with this solar panel cost calculator to determine how much it can cost you to go solar and your estimated energy savings.

Get in touch to learn more about solar and renewable energy.