WOOSTER, Ohio — In a newly formed park designated for bio-research, the massive, 550,000-gallon black and white digestion tank installed by Quasar Energy Group is an easy standout.
And officials with Quasar — the Cleveland-based company that built it, as well as researchers with OSU and leaders with federal, state and local governments, hope the project stands out across all of Ohio and beyond, as it begins producing about one-third of the campus’ electric needs next year.
On Dec. 14, industry and government officials gathered to preview a technology they said could improve U.S. energy independence, create jobs, improve education and help stimulate the economy.
“It’s a great day, because you’re looking at the future,” said Bobby Moser, dean of OSU’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “When you see that digester and you think about what can happen in the future — what is going to happen in the future — what you’re seeing is just a glimpse.”
The unit is expected to generate 485 kilowatts of electricity and 2 billion Btu of thermal heat annually, by the close of first quarter 2010.
It will serve as a model for farmers and businesses who want to invest in their own units, and potentially as a “hub of training” for OSU students and business partners, said Clemens Halene, Quasar vice president of engineering.
Ohio Agriculture Director Robert Boggs said Ohioans are confident in their ability to restore their economy and to take the necessary risks.
“We can rebuild our economy by the use of energy, by the use of bio-agricultural products, by the use of our research and development in the state of Ohio,” he said.
Boggs said now is “the time to be aggressive, the time to be opportunistic, to be bodacious” in the Buckeye State.
The project is being funded in part through a $500,000 grant through the Ohio Department of Development’s Biomass to Energy program, as well as an $800,000 loan through USDA.
Moser said the university strives to get its research into the hands of the private industry sector, which it is accomplishing through the BioHio Research Park — a collaboration between Wooster, the university and private industry, to attract and grow bio-research businesses.
Quasar, formerly called Schmack BioEnergy, is the first to locate to the park, located mostly along Wooster’s newly renovated Secrest Road.
Moser said the digester “brings knowledge to life” for the university, sharing it with private industry.
U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, D-Alliance, quoted former President John F. Kennedy, saying, “We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
He predicted Quasar’s digesters will spread beyond Ohio, and that the country can achieve energy independence in 15-20 years.
“We are going to begin with this facility and hopefully many more,” he said.
Steve Slack, who directs the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, called it a “starting point” for what he thinks Quasar will do.
The preview was also attended by state and federal legislators, as well as Ohio’s first lady, Frances Strickland. Once a farm girl herself, she said farmers need another way to deal with wastes, calling this a “double advantage,” because it also creates energy.