Recycled Vegetable Oil Powers Whole Foods Commercial Kitchen

The Massachusetts kitchen used to prepare foods for 62 stores in the Whole Foods North Atlantic region is now using its old cooking oil to generate virtually of its electricity.

That includes the lights, appliances and all the other culinary gadgets that go into food preparation.

The 70,000-square-foot facility in Everett relies on a 50 kilowatt (kW) renewable energy system from Lifecycle Renewables of Marblehead, Massachusetts, that runs on LR 100, a renewable diesel fuel made out of waste vegetable oil. 

The facility, which produces about 20,000 pounds of food daily, uses roughly the same amount of power required to run 200 American households annually, says Lifecycle Renewables. It supplies stores in Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.

Under its contract with Whole Foods, Lifecycle Renewables collects waste oil from 28 regional Whole Foods locations as well as a number of Boston-area restaurants. That oil is refined in Charlestown, creating the LR100 fuel.

The fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by about 80% compared with traditional diesel, says Rory Gaunt, CEO of Lifecycle Renewables.

“It was critical for Whole Foods that they have a base-load reducing (continuous operation) system that provides true power redundancy," says Adi Venni, chief technology officer for Lifecycle Renewables. "From the fuel production to engine customization, emissions controls and operating controls – this is really a set-it-and-forget-it type system."

Lifecycle Renewables’ refinery can produce 5 million gallons of LR100 for applications including on-road diesel, commercial heating oil and renewable electricity production. The Whole Foods system requires about 3,000 gallons every week.

The $400,000 installation was financed by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and National Grid, Zapotec Energy and the Department of Environmental Protection were all involved in the project, reports The Boston Globe.

The system could divert about 156,000 gallons of waste oil a year, while saving 20% of energy and waste-disposal costs.

Whole Foods is one of the largest corporate users of renewable energy. The company seeks to reduce its energy consumption by 25% per square foot by 2015.

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