Naperville unveils Green Fuels Depot

  • Maureen Murray, senior director of engineering mechanics at Packer Engineering, explains how the gasifier will transfer mulch and wood clippings into various flex fuels and electricity that will fuel several vehicles in the city's fleet.

    Maureen Murray, senior director of engineering mechanics at Packer Engineering, explains how the gasifier will transfer mulch and wood clippings into various flex fuels and electricity that will fuel several vehicles in the city's fleet. JUSTIN KMITCH | Staff Photographer

  • Maureen Murray, senior director of engineering mechanics at Packer Engineering, explains how the gasifier will transfer mulch and wood clippings into various flex fuels and electricity which will fuel several vehicles in the city's fleet.

    Maureen Murray, senior director of engineering mechanics at Packer Engineering, explains how the gasifier will transfer mulch and wood clippings into various flex fuels and electricity which will fuel several vehicles in the city's fleet. Justin Kmitch | Staff Photographer

  • U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, right, gets a look at the gasifier control board during Monday's unveiling.

    U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, right, gets a look at the gasifier control board during Monday's unveiling. Justin Kmitch | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/22/2011 5:10 AM

Once activated some time next month, Naperville officials hope the new Green Fuels Depot will not only turn mulch into electricity and fuel, but also jobs.

City officials, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, Packer Engineering and Argonne National Laboratory, unveiled the new depot Monday afternoon at 3712 Plainfield/Naperville Road.

 

Once the system is inspected on Dec. 14 and activated, a "gasifier" will heat yard and brush waste in an oxygen-free environment and convert it into a gas. That gas can then be processed through a generator set to produce electricity or be converted to ethanol using a process being developed at Argonne. The gasifier also produces hydrogen gas, which can be used as a fuel in itself.

The system produces about 15 kilowatts of electric power, enough to run about 12 suburban homes. Some of this power is used to keep the system operational. The remainder can be used as electricity for plug-in hybrid vehicles, or it can be supplied back to the Naperville grid.

"Everything runs cleaner off electricity, hydrogen or ethanol," said Councilman Robert Fieseler, adding that "if a unit like this takes off, it's a farm-scale operation for other municipalities as well. It means jobs."

Councilman Kenn Miller called the system and its location on the city's south side a win-win situation.

"We believe the long-term goal for Packer Engineering, with the success of this system, is to generate jobs. They'll be able to create jobs for the manufacturing of the systems and the support and the service as they sell them all over the world," Miller said. "So it's a great opportunity to eliminate yard waste and create jobs of all types."

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Primary funding for the test program came from the U.S. Department of Energy through U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert.

"The Green Fuels Depot is a remarkable energy breakthrough that will solidify Naperville's status as a role model for the other communities across the nation," said Biggert, who co-chairs the Congressional Research and Development Caucus. "This project is a win-win for local residents because it will yield cost and energy savings for taxpayers while reducing emissions. It's these types of cutting-edge technologies that will help America to finally break its addiction to foreign oil."

John Nowicki, vice president for business development at Packer Engineering said the gasifier's ability to turn yard waste into fuel is just the first step.

"The other products for the future are going to not only be providing power for different municipalities, farmlands and things of that nature. But more importantly, for the military as well," Nowicki said. "They're also talking about different animal waste which will take a different type of a process and, believe it or not, fertilizer. So, as they say, wait for the future because you ain't seen nothing yet."

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