SCHENECTADY -- The city might soon be converting its waste into energy as part of a proposed demonstration project.
The process is called pyrolysis, and the project was proposed to the City Council at a March 5 committee meeting by Sam Sylvetsky, president of Florida-based Biowaste Pyrolysis Solutions.
Sylvetsky said his company plans to take sludge -- a byproduct from the city’s wastewater treatment process -- and put it through a thermal heating system to convert it into energy.
The company would operate out of the city’s former composting facility at the wastewater treatment plant, a move that would save money for the city because it would not need to pay Casella Waste Systems to haul the sludge out of the city. Instead of paying tipping fees to Casella, Sylvetsky said the city will be paying him a reduced tipping fee.
He also would be paying the city a host fee of $3 per ton for any additional waste sludge he would bring in from other municipalities.
Biowaste Pyrolysis Solutions would operate at no additional cost to the city, which is why Sylvetsky is hoping the project goes according to plan.
“The city is not putting out any money,” Sylvetsky said. “It’s all on me.”
The city also would be able to purchase any excess energy produced from the process at a discounted rate, Sylvetsky said.
The pyrolysis of the 9,000 tons of sludge produced annually by the city’s wastewater treatment plant could produce between 400 to 500 kilowatts of energy for the city, Sylvetsky said. That energy would be used to power to the pyrolysis process and, if there is any left over, the wastewater treatment plant.
There would be about 450 tons of residual sludge leftover after the pyrolysis process each year, which Sylvetsky said could be used for fill in concrete or asphalt.
Sylvetsky also said if they got up and running, the plan is to take in additional waste sludge from nearby communities to maximize the capacity of the facility.
This project could bring a total cost savings between $200,000 to $300,000 each year in energy costs and tipping fees for the city, according to Sylvetsky. The amount of sludge the city will take in from other communities has not been decided.
Councilman John Polimeni said this could help the city possibly generate revenue from the process by bringing in more waste sludge from other communities. He also said the project could attract other investors into the city if its successful.
“The potential for this project is quite big for the city,” Polimeni said.
McCarthy said he already plans to support the project.
“It uses technology that has the potential to reduce costs and move the facility to become sustainable," McCarthy said.
Independent Councilman Vince Riggi said the project sounds good “in theory.” But he was curious about the contract language. He, as well as Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo, wondered if the project could lead to costs for the city in the future. McCarthy, though, said it will not.
Riggi also wondered if there would be an odor emitted from the former composting plant because of the pyrolysis process. When the city tried to operate its own composting facility in the past, it received many complaints from residents.
“The big issues there is that there be no impact on the neighborhood,” Riggi said.
Sylvetsky has assured the city his project will not emit foul odors. And McCarthy has already said the contract will include language that says the operation will be shut down if it does.
“I said if they get an odor complaint, they are out of there,” McCarthy said.