SOUTHINGTON — A $2 million loan could get construction started on a long-awaited food waste processing plant on DePaolo Drive.
The Connecticut Green Bank, a quasi-public agency, approved a loan to complete the $12 million funding needed for Quantum Biopower to begin work on an anaerobic digester. The plant will take food waste and convert it to energy.
Quantum Biopower has been working on financing as well as government approvals for more than two years. Rick Ross, associate director of statutory and infrastructure programs with the bank, said the company has been dedicated to their mission when others might have quit.
“I give them credit. It’s a long time to hold on to a project. They never wavered,” Ross said. “This project never really lost momentum.”
Quantum Biopower, owned by Supreme Industries Inc. of Harwinton, intends to expand its existing mulching operation at 49 DePaolo Drive to process 40,000 tons of waste a year. The venture is capitalizing on a 2013 law requiring supermarkets and wholesalers to recycle rather than pitch leftover food.
The state permitting process slowed the construction, according to Ross. Quantum was the first of its kind applying and it was thought that six to 12 months would be sufficient. The 2½-year wait was frustrating, Ross said.
After most of the needed money was loaned by People’s Bank, the Green Bank approved just under $2 million to close the gap. The Green Bank is funded by a surcharge on utility bills, private investors and government grants.
There is one more federal permit to get, but a draft of that permit has been secured. Ross said the most difficult approvals have been received.
Ross said the bank has pledged funds to four food waste recycling projects in Connecticut, and Quantum is the most likely to open first.
Another Southington food waste project, Turning Earth on Spring Street, is more ambitious, requiring $21 million for a process that both produces energy through bio-gas and prepares the food waste for garden and farm use. Ross said that project has yet to find a senior lender although the bank has offered $4 million in loans.
The technology which Turning Earth hopes to implement is used in Europe but the Southington location would be the first in America. That’s scared off some investors, Ross said.
“We think the project has promise; the technology has promise,” he said.
In May 2014, Turning Earth officials said they hoped to open in early 2016 and process 50,000 tons of food annually as well as 25,000 tons of leaf, wood and yard waste.
Michael Riccio, the Town Council chairman, said he and other town officials have been monitoring the progress of both projects. He’s pleased with the strides made by Quantum and said he was given a tour of its existing facility.
“It’s pretty amazing what they’re doing up there,” Riccio said.
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