Fremont Community Digester project breaks ground

From the  Farmers Advance  (July 6th, 2011)

FREMONT, MI – “Michigan’s first large-scale commercial anaerobic digester”-that is what U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) proudly labeled the Fremont Community Digester (FCD) at its official ground breaking ceremony on a cloudy and cool Friday afternoon, June 24.

Fremont’s mayor James Rynberg went even further, calling the project due to be completed in the summer of 2012 the “nation’s first”.

Regardless of which structures in their planning phases now, ultimately wins the “race” to the finish line and day one of operations, the rural city of Fremont MI, famous for its Gerber baby food, is justifiably proud of the role it will play in converting ag and food waste into energy.

USDA State Director James Turner said, “On behalf of the President and Ag Secretary Vilsack, I thank your team of visionaries and investors for their courage. We are pleased to be your partner,” he added, referring to the $12.8 million loan guarantee secured in large part by the persistence of Sen. Stabenow at the federal level. “This is a great day for Fremont, and a great day for the Unites States.”

Anand Gangadharan, president of project developer Novi Energy in Novi, MI, agreed, calling the USDA loan guarantee the “linchpin that achieved financial closure” to the FCD project. He introduced Sen. Stabenow and praised her “tireless efforts over 5-6 years, her steady level of support. She made me feel welcome in Washington, gave me entry to offices, got me in touch with the right people.”

The head of Novi Energy said that even though the project had suffered ups and downs – even on life support for a bit – that “this is a good thing from the community perspective, and the state, and it makes business sense.” He thanked his family, the Novi Energy team, the implementation team in place, the construction effort, the City of Fremont, the Newaygo County Rural Development, the local Gerber/Nestle family of companies, Consumers Energy, North Central Cooperative, Indus Energy, and Comerica Bank.

Sen. Stabenow explained the digester process in a nutshell: 100,000 tons of food waste per year, instead of taking up space in a landfill, will be converted into 3 megawatts of renewable energy, with bi-products of liquid plant nutrients and compost.

The technology application has been successfully operated in Europe (started in Denmark) for the past two decades.

She said, “We grow things in Michigan – let’s MAKE this HERE! We need to build our agricultural legacy; we need to bring innovation, support rural quality of life, which is a high priority in the next Farm Bill,” referring to the position she has as Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“We’re on the map,” she declared. “This is one more step in creating our own energy.”

Project investment is approximately $22 million. A 20-year power sales contract has been signed with Consumers Energy and approved by the MI Public Service Commission.

Organic waste feedstock supply contracts are signed with Gerber and five other major regional businesses. Compost and fertilizer generated will be marketed by North Central Cooperative of Fremont.

Architect-Engineer/Constructor is HGA/DeMaria Building Company of southeast Michigan. The FCD project will provide 40 construction jobs, and 6-8 full time equivalent operating jobs.

FCD’s majority owner is INDUS Energy, LLC, an investment group located in Bingham Farms, MI. Managing member is NE Biofuels LLC of Novi. North Central Cooperative of Wabash IN (Fremont Co-Op recently merged with NCC) is a minority owner. Comerica Bank is providing debt financing with the backing of the USDA guarantee already mentioned.

Arvin Shah of INDUS Energy beamed, “This is a great day! FCD will be a template for other projects coming up-it will be a cookie cutter for others planned.”

Rob Zeldenrust, NCC Senior Manager from Fremont, joined Sen. Stabenow in thanking her long-time aide, Mary Judnich.

“Her friendship and representing Debbie here locally has been a huge help.”

Rob talked about how fertilizer for U.S. crops now comes from Canada, Russia, and the Middle East, and that biodigesters will open the door to less reliance on foreign sources.

Novi Energy, which provides energy consulting, management, and infrastructure project development for utility, industrial, institutional, and commercial clients across the U.S. and the world, is working to develop other such anaerobic digester/power projects in the Midwestern U.S.

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NOVI Energy media contact: Kelly Farr, 248.735.NOVI (6684) x 124,