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No More Tears: Gills Onions Uses Onion Juice to Power Plant

By Sebrina Zerkus Smith |
Gills Onions, one of the countries largest producer of fresh onions, is harnessing onion power to provide a more sustainable future. The company now uses all of its waste to fuel its manufacturing processes.
onions power reuse

Everyone knows just how powerful an onion is... just one can bring a strong person to tears. But Gills Onions, one of the countries largest producer of fresh onions, is harnessing onion power to provide a more sustainable future. The company now uses all of its waste to fuel its manufacturing processes.

Gills Onions’ has implemented an award-winning Waste-to-Energy project, called the Advanced Energy Recovery System (AERS). It has allowed the company to become the first food processing facility in the world to produce ultra-clean energy from its own waste – converting 100% of the daily onion waste (up to 300,000 lbs) into renewable energy.

The system went into operation in July 2009, and eliminates the labor intensive and expensive process of hauling onion waste to farm fields, where it was worked into the soil.

The new system extracts the juice from the onion peels and treats it in a high-rate anaerobic reactor to produce methane-rich biogas, which powers two 300-kilowatt fuel cells. The resulting electricity is used to power the onion processing plant, saving an estimated $700,000 annually in electrical costs.

The company also gets additional savings from the elimination of $400,000 in annual costs associated with hauling onion waste to the farm fields. Gills has reduced the number of truck trips associated with removal of the onion waste by hundreds each year. And last year announced that the company had received Climate Registered™ status by The Climate Registry, a non-profit greenhouse gas emissions registry.

Gills Onions has voluntarily measured, managed and reported its greenhouse gas emissions since 2008. The Climate Registered certification means that the company meets rigorous transparency, accuracy and comprehensiveness standards established by The Climate Registry.

There are both environmental and economic benefits to be gained from the company's conversion to biogas. It sets a precedent for food processors of all kinds to transform food waste into valuable, renewable energy-- proving once again just how powerful the onion really is. Go Onions!

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