Project of the Month: Orbit Energy

November 29th, 2017

In early 2015, Orbit Energy Rhode Island LLC (OERI) contracted with SAGE for assistance with the permitting necessary for the construction and operation of its anaerobic digestion facility in Johnston, RI.  Anaerobic digestion is the natural process in which microorganisms break down organic materials and occurs in closed spaces where there is no air (or oxygen).

The OERI facility was initially developed to encourage the diversion of food waste from Rhode Island landfills. Over time, the technology provides the benefit of producing 3.2 MWs of clean electricity by capturing the methane, a greenhouse gas, that would have otherwise been released to the atmosphere.

Over the course of the project, SAGE prepared applications for submission to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s (RIDEM’s) Offices of Waste Management and Air Resources to secure permits for OERI to construct and operate this first-of-its-kind facility in Rhode Island.

One of the early permitting challenges was that Rhode Island had not yet developed regulations related to anaerobic digestion facilities. For SAGE, this meant that the team had to first apply for a permit under RIDEM’s existing Solid Waste Regulations. A conditional Putrescible Waste Composting permit was issued in May 2016.  Ultimately, the RIDEM’s Office of Waste Management promulgated its Solid Waste Regulations No. 8 – Rhode Island Organic Waste Recycling Facilities (Composting Regulations), which included anaerobic digestion facilities. SAGE then reapplied for a permit under the newly-promulgated regulations and received verbal approval to begin accepting liquid food waste in April 2017.

In November 2017, OERI was issued a final Anaerobic Digestion Organic Waste Recycling Facility License, allowing for full operation of the facility and a monumental step in moving the project forward.  The facility is still working to finalize construction of the facility infrastructure and is in the process of ramping up the biology of the digesters in order to produce the requisite biogas for the facility.

For more information on the project, see a recent newsletter from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

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