Up until a few years ago, cooking grease had virtually no value but now it goes for 38 cents a pound. Rising gas prices have even made restaurant grease very attractive to thieves. There has been several cases over the past few years where people have been busted from stealing grease to make their own biofuel.
One company however, has figured out a way to recycle cooking grease back into its own operations, thereby eliminating the need for external disposal all together. Sustainable Business reports that the Massachusetts kitchen that prepares food for 62 Whole Foods stores in the North Atlantic region uses it own old cooking oil to generate virtually all of its electricity.
The 70,000 square foot facility relies on 50 kilowatts of renewable energy from Lifecycle Renewables. The lights, appliances, and culinary gadgets are all run on LR100, a biodiesel made out of waste vegetable oil. Lifecycle Renewables is contracted to collect waste oil from 28 regional Whole Foods as well many restaurants in the Boston area. The resulting fuel that is created from refining this oil reduces emissions by about 80 percent when compared to traditional diesel.
“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.”
Whole Foods is a massive proponent of renewable energy and their aim to reduce their energy consumption by 25 percent per square foot by 2015. The current system that they use in their kitchens could help divert up to 156,000 gallons of waste oil annually, saving the company up to 20 percent of its energy and waste disposal costs.
Through this unique arrangement between Whole Foods and Lifecycle Renewables along with the kitchen, cooking grease is recycled in a manner that is beneficial to all parties involved.