The 45,000-square foot building located at 9 Commercial Street in Everett, Mass., serves as the kitchen facility for the North Atlantic and Northeast Regions of Whole Foods Market supplying prepared foods and other products to 43 stores located in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey. To meet the growing demand for prepared foods, the kitchen operates around the clock and uses approximately 1,200 gallons of cooking oil each week.
In order to alleviate some of the strain on the power grid in Everett and further its commitment to clean energy and minimizing waste, Whole Foods Market worked with National Grid to discuss alternate technology options. Zapotec Energy of Cambridge, MA performed a feasibility study on behalf of the parties. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s Renewable Energy Trust, which has been an integral part of the process, pledged its support to the project and introduced Whole Foods Market to Lifecycles Renewables, a Massachusetts based company that specializes in decentralized renewable energy solutions and the development of the supporting infrastructures. Waste biomass cogeneration, also known as waste biomass combined heat and power (CHP), is a popular environmentally healthy alternative to generate power that is widely used in Europe, but is a new technology in the U.S.
“Whole Foods Market has been working to identify potential partners and solutions for the commissary in Everett for nearly two years, so we are incredibly excited to bring this revolutionary technology to our region,” said Kathy Loftus, Global Leader, Sustainable Engineering, Maintenance and Energy for Whole Foods Market. “The system will be connected into the commissary’s electric distribution system and operate in parallel with National Grid’s utility lines in an effort to self-generate electricity to relieve congestion on its transmission and distribution system and decrease our carbon footprint.”
The waste vegetable oil used for frying food that will come from the commissary and kitchen facility as well as 21 Whole Foods Market stores from across the region, will be used as a biofuel in a cogeneration module using an internal combustion engine to generate electricity and usable heat, to offset some of the utility costs for the facility.
“Being able to repurpose over 1,200 gallons of cooking oil a week, which was previously considered a waste product, to fuel a system that reduces our dependency on conventional fossil fuel sources and results in less harmful emissions helps us move one step closer to our goal of becoming a ‘zero waste’ company,” said Jeff Turnas, president of Whole Foods Market’s North Atlantic Region.
The generator will have the capacity to meet the electricity needs of the entire commissary, just over 2,000,000 kWh’s per year. Producing electricity with waste biomass avoids new carbon dioxide emissions attributed to electricity generated using fossil fuels. Vegetable oil exhaust emissions that are produced contain virtually zero sulfur oxides and sulfates, major contributors to acid rain.
Lifecycle Renewables will be installing and operating the system as well as coordinating and managing the logistics involved with weekly waste cooking oil collections and fuel delivery from 21 Whole Foods Market locations from across the region. Whole Foods Market estimates that approximately 630 gallons of waste vegetable oil will be collected weekly and repurposed as fuel for the generator.
“Our on-site power system and fuel processing techniques will deliver to Whole Foods Market the optimal value from their waste vegetable oil. The system generates energy without the use of fossil fuels or chemical additives, making this the best environmental option for waste vegetable oil. Additionally, the system’s self-sustainability mitigates the risk of a costly outage for this critical operation. We are very pleased to be partnering with Whole Foods Market on this pioneering operation, they have exemplified the collaborative leadership that will deliver this technology from coast to coast,” said Rory Gaunt, Chief Operating Officer of Lifecycle Renewables, Inc.
Whole Foods Market has an ongoing commitment to green power and being a leader in environmental stewardship. In addition to company-wide initiatives, each store has a “Green Mission Team” composed of Team Members who are passionate about environmental issues and coordinate in-house efforts.