“This is big,” Ben Nacenzi said. “It’s an international business, building right here in Johnston.”
Nacenzi, who serves as assistant director of public works, wasn’t the only Johnstonian – or Rhode Islander for that matter – ringing with excitement on a recent sunny morning in the town’s high-traffic industrial park.
Nearly six-dozen business, professional and political leaders gathered for an exciting groundbreaking ceremony to officially announce that Blue Sphere Corp. – a clean-energy company that develops, manages and owns waste-to-energy products – will begin building a state-of-the-art facility in the Johnston Industrial Complex.
“I am very excited and honored to be here today as we celebrate this groundbreaking of an exciting facility, which is the first of its kind in Rhode Island,” Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena told those on hand. “I want to thank Blue Sphere for placing their trust and faith in my administration and investing $18.9 million into our town and into our state.”
Polisena, who was backed by Town Council President Robert Russo and District I Councilman Richard DelFino III, went on: “I know there are other state locations Blue Sphere could have chose, but they made the right decision coming to Johnston.”
“Anytime international corporations invest in Rhode Island, it is a good day,” Lt. Gov. Dan McKee said. “And Blue Sphere is going to build here because Mayor Polisena has a vision that’s good for Johnston and Rhode Island, as well.”
The Blue Sphere facility will produce 3.2 megawatts of clean energy from uneaten food that would normally end up in local landfills. That electricity will then be sold to National Grid to provide power to local home and businesses.
The project is a joint venture, with an affiliate of York Capital Management to develop, construct and operate the biogas generation facility in Johnston under the management of Entropy Investment Management.
The National Resource Defense Council estimates roughly 40 percent of food is wasted in the United States every year, amounting to $165 billion loss. Blue Sphere said its solution is a win-win for all involved.
“This facility is the ultimate landfill because we take waste in the front end and nothing coming out,” said Blue Sphere CEO Shlomi Palas. “There’s no smell, just electricity and compost.”
Blue Sphere officials said plans are for the Johnston facility to be up and operational by the end of 2015.
“In this area, this has become the Mecca – the pulse of renewable energy for the entire state,” Polisena said. “This area and this town are the perfect location for your investment and your company.”
Polisena also told the attendees “that this Blue Sphere project will create 60 to 70 construction jobs – jobs that will put Rhode Islanders back to work and keep them working.”
The mayor went on to thank the Rhode Island General Assembly and the state’s congressional delegation for supporting legislation related to the use of food waste for renewable energy generation.
“Blue Sphere is not new at this technology,” Polisena said. “They have done this before in several other facilities and have proven to be the best of what they do. As the mayor of Johnston, I must tell you that there is excitement in the air; electricity – pardon the pun – in the air.”
Orbit Energy Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., co-developed the project. Blue Sphere has made arrangements for the inclusion of two of Orbit’s high solid anaerobic digester units to work in parallel with the digesters of Austep S.P.A, the project’s EPA contractor. DiPrete Engineering of Cranston led the state and local permitting for the Johnston project.