When Life Gives You Onions, Make Renewable Energy

Gills Onions nets big savings

By Olsen Ebright
|  Friday, Jul 17, 2009  |  Updated 12:10 PM PDT
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In this video news release, get a glimpse into Gill Onions.

In this video news release, get a glimpse into Gill Onions.

From onion bulbs to light bulbs, a new process is turning onion waste into renewable energy.

Gills Onions in Oxnard, Calif., is using the discovery to power its refrigerators and lighting, and the savings are quickly adding up. The company saved $700,000 a year on electricity and $400,000 a year on disposal costs, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Not only that, but now Gills Onions is eligible to receive $2.7 million from Southern California Gas Co. as part of a state program to encourage self-contained generation by businesses.

"It's a great sustainability story, but it was first a business decision to solve a waste problem," owner Steve Gill told the Times. "But in doing so, we solved a lot of environmental problems too."

The system works by converting methane from fermented onion juice into energy, according to a news release:

By extracting the juice from onion waste and letting it ferment in a special processing system, Gills Onions can create enough electric "juice" to power 460 homes through two 300-kilowatt fuel cells. The innovative and cost-saving technology converts 100 percent of 300,000 pounds of onion waste daily into ultra-clean electrical energy, heat and high-value cattle feed, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 30,000 tons per year.

Gill told the Times his eco-saving efforts are far from finished. He wants "to turn the plant into a zero-waste facility by revamping packaging and by recycling employees' lunch leftovers," the Times reported.

"We consider this a long-term investment for the company," Gill told the newspaper.

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