UC Davis Purchases Biodigester, Plans Compost Facility

UC Davis has purchased the anaerobic biodigester that has operated on campus since 2014. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The University of California, Davis, has purchased an anaerobic biodigester that has operated on campus since 2014 and plans to open an adjacent composting facility to create a more comprehensive waste-management strategy. The purchase will allow UC Davis to maintain an active research program on anaerobic digester technology and potentially expand research opportunities in compost application for healthy soils and carbon sequestration.

UC Davis ownership will also allow the campus to develop a comprehensive organic waste disposal program that meets the newest state requirements, reduces vehicle trips carrying waste to off-campus sites, and provides better control over current and future costs.

“The digester has helped demonstrate feasibility of the technology in a medium-sized plant, which was an important reason behind construction of the plant on the UC Davis campus,” said Camille Kirk, director of sustainability at UC Davis. “Looking forward, we’re combining leading-edge research with a comprehensive approach to managing organic waste on campus.”

Opened in April 2014, the campus biodigester was built, owned and operated by CleanWorld, with a ground lease from UC Davis. The commercial-scale biodigester is designed to generate electricity from methane gas formed from the digestion of organic wastes. It uses technology invented by Professor Ruihong Zhang at UC Davis and licensed to CleanWorld by UC Davis. The facility was launched with support of grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission.

The transfer of these assets to UC Davis fulfills CleanWorld’s mission to focus on technology rather than operating facilities, with the added benefit that UC Davis is a world-class institution dedicated to furthering research in the quest to find beneficial uses for organic waste.

As a renowned research institution and leader in environmental sustainability, UC Davis is interested in the research and operational opportunities offered by an on-campus biodigester and composting facility. UC Davis officials therefore decided to purchase and operate the biodigester. The cost of purchasing the equipment is estimated at $600,000 plus $450,000 for facility upgrades and permitting costs.

The university intends to construct a composting facility to manage effluent and waste products from the biodigester, as well as other organic wastes generated by the campus that cannot be fed to the biodigester and instead are currently hauled away. Costs of constructing the proposed composting facility are to be determined. 

Media Resources

Andy Fell, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-4533, ahfell@ucdavis.edu

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