Columbia Biogas plans Portland waste-to-power plant

Columbia Biogas

Rendering: Columbia Biogas plant

A $40 million biogas facility is in the permitting process in Portland, with its sights set on turning food waste into enough electricity to power up to 5,000 homes.

Columbia Biogas LLC, a Portland startup, plans to build an anaerobic digester facility on an 11-acre parcel near the intersection of Northeast Columbia Boulevard and Highway 205. The company would take in food waste from sources such as grocery stores, restaurants and food processors and turn it into baseline power through the use of an oxygen-free process that produces a methane-rich biogas. The process will also result in petroleum-free fertilizers.

"It's commonly used in Europe where there are thousands of these plants," said John McKinney, founder and CEO of Columbia Biogas. "It's a well-known, proven technology."

The plant, planned to generate between 4 megawatts and 5 megawatts of power, will be directly connected to a PacifiCorp distribution line, McKinney said.

While there are other projects like the Columbia Biogas plant in the planning stages in the United States, McKinney expects the Portland facility to set a standard for waste-to-power facilities. The plant is expected to open in 2012 if the permits come through and construction goes according to plan.

McKinney, who has a background in wind farm development and renewable energy finance, has been working with neighborhood associations to get buy-in for the plant. He has hired an engineer who specializes in odor control to make sure the processing facility has a limited olfactory impact.

The facility will employ 10 workers and McKinney plans to finance it through a combination of his own equity and debt financing either from the Oregon Department of Energy loan program or from commercial sources.

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