School of Public Policy Capstones

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This study was conducted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst public policy masters students for Springfield based Wellspring Cooperative, a nonprofit focused on cooperative job creation and training. The project assesses three potential scale options for Wellspring in order to use organic material to heat and/or generate electricity to power its hydroponic greenhouse. Though the greenhouse is not constructed as of yet, its source of energy is an important element for Wellspring. Motivations for utilizing organic waste to power the greenhouse are due in part to the influx of food waste sources being diverted due to the new Massachusetts Food Waste Ban. Indeed, new Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) restrictions on commercial food waste entering into landfills (CMR 310 19.017(3)) has created a conducive environment for composting and associated organic waste processing technology growth. Moreover, the commercial organic waste ban was a catalyst for Wellspring to contact the Center for Public Policy and Administration to determine what types of waste to energy technology could be incorporated to power their greenhouse and subsequent associated job growth.

In assessing potential energy generation sources, we researched the technological aspects for a compost-to-heat system, a small scale anaerobic digester, and a large scale anaerobic digester. We then evaluated the relevant financial and implementation factors involved. we determined Wellspring's goals of waste to energy generation should be framed through the context of a short term and long term lens. The recommended short term strategy is to utilize composting systems to heat the greenhouse and connect the greenhouse to the electrical grid. The recommended long term strategy includes partnering with the City of Springfield to develop an organic waste processing facility that would generate electricity from food, animal, and human waste and/or contract with the city as a food waste hauler. With these recommendations we believe that Wellspring will achieve its goals and lead the way in sustainable energy generation.