Onion processor is in the process of creating energy through fuel cell technology and onions. At first, one of the largest onion processors in the world disposed over one million pounds of onion waste every year. This process cost them about $400,000 every year. In addition to the high cost of disposal, the company also faced escalating electricity bills. The requirements for energy from the company’s facility was so high that they frequently faced blackouts for short periods of time. The blackouts were jeopardizing the company’s future because extensive refrigeration required to preserve the processed onions would go down. In order to combat this increasingly alarming problem, Gills Onions decided to become self-sufficient. They recruited Ruihong Zhang from the University of California, Davis in order to begin research a method in which onion waste could be converted into energy to power their plant. He found that the sugar contained in the onion waste was ideal for producing methane. More specifically, the sugars in the onions could be used for microbe production which in turn produce methane. Through anaerobic digestion, the company discovered a way to convert the waste of an onion to methane gas. This methane gas is then decomposed into hydrogen and carbon. This decomposition is fed into fuel cells in order to generate electricity. About 300,000 pounds of onion waste can produce up to 300 kilowatts. The Onion Processing Company is powering their facilities through this method. Gills Onions introduced the fuel cell technology in the late 2009 and now they have expanded that same technology into powering their entire setup.
By Danyal Khafajizad, Fuel Cell Battery