onion-production-line.jpgThe largest onion processor in the nation began this week to convert 100 percent of its onion waste — 300,000 pounds per day — into ultra-clean electrical energy to power its entire factory, reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 30,000 tons per year.

By extracting the juice out of onion waste and letting it ferment, Gills Onions creates biogas — enough to completely power its factory, the equivalent of 460 homes —  saving the company $700,000 in annual electricity costs. It saves another $400,000 in shipping costs which used to be used to carry away the onion waste.

The company’s onion juice-fueled Advanced Energy Recovery System debuted Thursday at its Oxnard, Calif., headquarters. After extracting the juice from onion waste, it is allowed to ferment in a special processing system. The methane gas produced is sent to fuel cells which create heat and water and a tiny amount of CO2. The little bit of pulp left over is trucked out to California’s central valley and fed to cows, completing the virtual zero-waste process.

By taking action on climate change and installing new equipment under the state of California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program, Southern California Gas Co. will award Gills Onions with a $2.7 million incentive check. To date, it is one of the largest such projects installed since the inception of the program in 2001, created to encourage consumers to begin generating their own energy.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote  a congratulatory letter to Gills Onions. “California is proud to be the nation’s leader in sustainability and also home to the finest produce in the country,” he said. “You not only offer quality onions, but also use innovative techniques to reduce waste and increase energy efficiency, making our state greener than ever.”

Gills Onions is a 25-year-old family-owned-and-operated grower and food processor. For more information, visit www.gillsonions.com.


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