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Energy Commission Takes Top Prize for Onions-to-Biogas Commission Teams with Gills Onions at Green Summit
March 30, 2010 Sacramento, CA - The California Energy Commission and Gills Onions were recently presented with the 2010 Green California Leadership Award at the Green California Summit and Exposition. In the category of waste management, the two received accolades for the Commission-funded Advanced Energy Recovery System (AERS) project implemented at the Gills Onions facility in Oxnard. The onion processing giant received $499,921 in grant funding from the Commission for the project.
This project will build upon California's leadership role in waste-to-energy conversion by helping demonstrate a new value-added use for agricultural digester biogas and demonstrating combined heat and power generation," said Energy Commission Vice Chairman Jim Boyd, who accepted the award for the Commission.
Oxnard-based Gills Onions peels up to one million pounds of onions per day. Before the AERS project, the onion waste, a potential energy source, had been trucked offsite to farms and left to decompose, releasing greenhouse gases, creating offensive odors, attracting pests, and generating potential groundwater contamination. After considering several alternatives, Gills decided to extract juice from the onion peels and use it for biofuel. The juice is fed into an anaerobic digester, which processes 200,000-300,000 pounds of onion waste daily, producing biogas.
The biogas is cleaned and conditioned for use in two 300-killowatt fuel cells to produce combined heat and power for the facility's use. After solving the variable gas flow challenges, 112,000 standard cubic feet of piped-in natural gas per day has been replaced by the biogas feeding the fuel cells.
"Research and demonstration partnerships such as this yield results. In less than two years, we have implemented a project that solves a host of problems," said Boyd. "This award recognizes the elimination of up to 14,500 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per year, the saving of 40,000 gallons of diesel fuel per year used to haul onion waste, and the saving of almost 112,000 standard cubic feet of natural gas."
Much of the biogas cleanup and conditioning research and development work on the AERS was performed by the Gas Technology Institute. Researchers will continue to monitor the quality of the biogas for one year.
Another 2010 Green California Leadership Award winner in the category of energy innovation was the California Franchise Tax Board for implementing an innovative dynamic cooling program in a data center. The research that led to this cooling system was funded and supported by the California Energy Commission.
Funds are awarded from the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program, which supports public interest research and development that helps improve the quality of life in California by bringing environmentally safe, affordable, and reliable energy services and products to the marketplace. For more information about the PIER program, visit
Download the high resolution photo of Nikki Rodoni of Gills Onions and Energy Commission Vice Chair Jim Boyd display the Green California Leadership Award.
Photo by Adam Gottlieb