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Waste into clean energy?

Forum at GCTV tonight on anaerobic digester in Greenfield

GREENFIELD — The town is looking at the opportunity to turn some of its waste into clean energy and save money at the same time, according to Carole Collins, the town’s energy and sustainability coordinator.

The town will hold a forum tonight from 5:30 to 7 in the studio in Greenfield Community Television, 393 Main St., where it will discuss the possibility of eventually using an anaerobic digester to dispose of its sewage treatment sludge.

If the town decides to do so, it could save up to $200,000 a year in disposal fees.

Collins said the town received a Massachusetts Clean Energy Center grant of $40,000 to study what type of facility would save the town money, while allowing it to take responsibility for its own waste, as well as heat its transfer station.

The only thing that could stop the town from moving forward would be a moratorium Town Council voted earlier this year, which currently prevents, for instance, biomass wood-burning plants from coming to town until September 2014, but Collins said she doesn’t believe the moratorium would stop a digester.

Currently, the town ships its heavy, wet sludge — the solids left after wastewater treatment — to a plant in Millbury and other plants around the state.

Town officials believe an anaerobic digester, which generates heat that can be used directly to warm a building or to power an electric generator, would eliminate the costs associated with shipping the wet solids, as well as the cost to heat and provide electricity to the transfer station.

Collins said the town’s consultant on the matter will make a presentation tonight and she and other town officials will be at the forum to answer the public’s questions.

The town has discussed the possibility of building a regional facility that would accept other towns’ sludge.

Collins said it just makes sense that the town would try to turn expensive waste into clean energy and profit.

The town currently generates 1.7 million gallons of sludge each year, said Collins.

She said the bacteria in an anaerobic digester would produce methane which could be burned to supply heat to the transfer station and generate electricity.

Collins said it helps cut fossil fuel use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the remaining material is rich in nutrients so it can be used as fertilizer.

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