A six-foot tall box behind a restaurant in Massachusetts is a solution to two problems: what to do with leftover cooking oil and how to power the fryers that produce all that grease in the first place.
This article from Popular Science says the Vegawatt Power System that turns used cooking oil into an energy source for Finz restaurant in Dedham, Massachusetts has been picked as one of the magazine’s Invention Awards:
Engineer James Peret’s Vegawatt is the first all-in-one device that processes grease to continuously provide a building with electricity and hot water, heralding a significant change in alternative-fuel applications. “It’s a brilliant idea,” says Josh Tickell, author of Biodiesel America. “A waste stream to an energy source, with no intermediary.”
Last December, after a year of 80-hour weeks on the development, Peret, 33, installed the first Vegawatt at Finz, a joint that offers loads of fried seafood. With patents still pending, he’s reluctant to give specifics on its inner workings, but it begins with staff members pouring in 10 to 12 gallons of used deep-fryer oil each day. Before going into the Vegawatt’s generator, the bread-crumb-filled muck is deposited into a reservoir and undergoes a multi-stage cleaning, treatment and filtration process. At this stage, the oil is prepared for combustion with a method Peret devised that draws heat from the exhaust system. After that, the processed grease moves into a tank that feeds the modified 15-horsepower diesel generator. Heat from the Vegawatt’s engine coolant is used to warm the water in the building’s pipes, further reducing the restaurant’s energy needs.
The Vegawatt goes through about 80 gallons of grease a week and puts out five kilowatts of energy an hour. That could save restaurants $1,000 a month in energy costs. You can find out more by going to the Vegawatt Web site.