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Creating Electricity from Cow Dung and Old Frying Oil

14 November 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

Company Name: BioRenewable Energy Projects, LLC

Founder and managing member: Jerome Foster

Based: San Diego

Year Founded: 2003

Number of Employees: 6

Funding: private investors

Revenue 2006: None

Future revenue: $15 million in 2008, with 20 percent to 30 percent projected growth by 2011

What they do: Create renewable energy technology for electricity, using natural resources of the client’s geographic location. These resources include solar, wind and cow dung. “We’re not technology-driven,” said Foster. “We’re open to doing technology, based on the resources of the area we are going into.”

In Imperial Valley, 400,000 heads of cattle create an abundant supply of poop. This causes environmental issues because of the methane gas released. But BioRenewable is building a facility that harnesses this natural resource, turning the methane into electricity.

The facility, the largest of its kind in the nation, will use cow dung and old frying oil to create methane, which drives the turbine to produce electricity.  While other facilities also use cow dung, Foster said that BioRenewable is able to generate four times more energy, by including oil collected from fast-food joints and restaurants. “We’re adding a higher energy content by adding fat and grease,” said Foster. “There’s a magic to how you put it together and the amounts and the temperature.”

Current Project: The $36 million methane facility in Imperial Valley will generate 14 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 98,000 homes. The electricity will be sold to Imperial Irrigation District starting 2008.

Other Projects: BioRenewable is bidding to supply solar electricity to a southern California utility company, transmitting from Imperial Valley to San Diego in 2008. BioRenewable also has projects elsewhere in Southern California, which harness the area’s abundant supply of sun and wind. In Florida, where wood waste is prevalent, the company is working on a wood waste facility to generate electricity. The company is also exploring projects in Arizona and Nevada, which will use solar energy.

How He Got Started: “I used to laugh at people who did renewable energy projects, because it wasn’t a big part of the energy industry,” said Foster, who started working in traditional energy companies in the 80s.

“In 2002, I began to see the world differently, in terms of the environment, the cost of foreign oil, and our usage of energy as Americans. For most people, as long as they can turn on their lights, and they can start their cars and get to work and back, they’re not that concerned with energy uses. We as Americans take it for granted that it’s always going to be there,” said Foster. “The reality is the world does not have the resources to supply all the cars.”

Philosophy: “You reach a stage in life where maybe the best way to move forward is to walk the walk yourself and make a difference,” said Foster, “and at the same time you have to eat. You begin to say, ‘I can’t change the world, but I can change how I do things.’”

Vision: “I would like to see us become the first major renewable energy company that’s not technology driven, but resource driven and market driven,” said Foster.

Web: biorenewableprojects.com

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang

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