BRUNSWICK — By the end of the year, the town will become home to a facility that uses bacteria to convert waste into electricity.
Village Green Ventures, a New York-based technology company, received unanimous approval from the Planning Board Tuesday night for a plan to build an “anaerobic digester” at Brunswick Landing.
The company is led by David Weyburn, who spent more than seven years at the Boeing Co. working on clean technology and environmental projects. He said the plan is to move his company to Brunswick and begin assessing opportunities for future growth.
“What VG is most excited about is all these large energy consumers (in the town) … there’s a lot of opportunity for clean energy that competes with the prices of natural gas and hydro in the state,” Weyburn told the board.
Weyburn said his company’s project, called Village Green Brunswick Landing, will eventually provide electricity for all of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority’s tenants within Brunswick Landing at rates “as good or better” than what’s currently available.
“We can beat the price of natural gas, we can produce low-cost electricity for the base and make sure they can bring innovative jobs to the community,” Weyburn said, “and it all involves recycling products that are currently going to landfill in the state.”
MRRA signed a lease agreement with Village Green Ventures at a March board meeting for property on the south end of the tarmac at Brunswick Executive Airport.
Weyburn said construction of the nearly 7,400-square-foot facility will begin sometime between July and August. He expects it to be up and running by the end of the year.
The anaerobic digester works by taking in organic matter, whether it’s food waste, biosolids or restaurant grease, feeding it through several types of micro-organisms and breaking it down into methane gas. The methane gas can then be burned to create electricity.
Mark Hedrich, nutrient management program manager at Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, said anaerobic digesters are typically used by large-scale farmers to get rid of waste and generate their own electricity.
While there are about 180 anaerobic digesters in the country, he said, there are few in Maine.
Hedrich said while anaerobic digesters can be an expensive investment, they can provide economic and environmental benefits.
“They can produce electricity for themselves and they can also sell it and put it on the grid,” he said.
Weyburn said Brunswick’s community, including Bowdoin College and economic development efforts at Brunswick Landing, is the “perfect storm” for clean technology development.
“You couldn’t ask more than Brunswick Landing as a site to try and do some stuff,” he said. “… It actually fits nicely in this idea that you can have a micro grid of sorts. So VG is a little bit about the biomass and the energy, but it’s also about what kind of solutions you can form around a community that has energy needs.”