By Ashley Phillips
Green Right Now
Restaurants looking to green their operations by generating some of their own electrical power are finding it easier as vendor companies try to fill in the gaps.
Owl Power Company, for instance, has developed a way for restaurants to more conveniently use vegetable oil as fuel. Owl’s Vegawatt is a combined heating and power system that runs on vegetable oil and can be connected to existing heating and power systems to be used as supplemental green energy.
Founded by James Peret, President and CEO of Owl Power Company, Vegawatt was first introduced last December at Finz Seafood & Grill in Dedham, Massachusetts.
Here’s how it works: A restaurant deposits vegetable oil waste into the unit and Vegawatt goes to work using a four-step cleaning process to turn used vegetable oil into biofuel. The unit is located outside the restaurant; just like a central air conditioning unit is placed. It contains one electrical hookup, a water feed, and a return feed. This reduces the power required for the water heater, because the water is partially heated through the Vegawatt. Better yet, the Vegawatt requires no maintenance, according to Owl.
While Vegawatt cannot power an entire restaurant, it can produce 10-25% of the energy required, which could translate to hundreds of dollars per month on saved utility costs. Right now, some restaurants pay companies 10-25 cents per gallon to dispose of their used vegetable oil, though others use their oil in vehicles.
With Vegawatt, a restaurant can saves an disposal costs and turn their oil recycling into a cash-positive operation.
- Produces no liquid byproducts
- Reduces carbon emissions
- Decreases waste going into landfills
The $32,000 Vegawatt co-generation systems (their cost after the federal tax credit of 30 percent is $22,000) can be leased or purchased. The company says a restaurant can save about $1,000 a month — offsetting the purchase price in two years — if it produces 80 gallons of waste vegetable oil per week.
(Obviously, a lease makes the equipment payback virtually immediate, as long as the lease amount is less than the money saved on energy cots.)
As with many of green products, there are multiple government incentives when purchasing Vegawatt. Along with the federal tax credit of 30 percent of the cost, the equipment also could qualify for state refunds.
The company is selling primarily in the Northeast, but hoping to expand to the Mid-Atlantic states. “There is a lot of interest in California, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and other places internationally as well,” Peret said.
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