By Derek Lacey, Oct. 23, 2014 @ 01:40 PM
GAMEWELL —Each day, Randy Dellinger’s plant on Virgina Street in Lenoir churns out about 7,000 gallons of diesel fuel, ready to be pumped into any diesel engine.
But Dellinger’s diesel isn’t made from fossilized carbon. It’s made from soybean and canola oil, and poultry and pork fat. It’s biodiesel, and Dellinger’s company is Foothills Bio-Energies.
Dellinger explained his process and product to a small group Wednesday during a tour, his way of helping to celebrate the second annual National Bioenergy Day, a nationwide effort to advocate bioenergy in the U.S. that is sponsored by the Biomass Power Association, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Industrial Pellet Association, among others. Bioenergy is the use of any organic material to generate heating, cooling, electricity or, in Dellinger’s case, fuel.
On Wednesday, Caldwell County hosted its first National Bioenergy Day event, joining 40 other events in 24 states and Canada. It was the first Bioenergy Day event to be held in all of western North Carolina, said David Waechter, founder of Verdante Bioenergy Services, a Lenoir-based company that supplies IT services for bioenergy companies.
“We’re really trying to educate the public and raise awareness of biomass energy in general and the opportunities it has for local economies to grow, and also reduce our dependence on foreign oil and coal,” Waechter said.
The first stop of the day was a tour of Dellinger’s facility, a former adhesives plant, which began fuel production in 2006 and is now one of the state’s largest biodiesel producers. The fuel is shipped to be sold at truck stops in North and South Carolina.
A tour of Sustainable Foothills was next, followed by a Verdante presentation on Finland’s wood-to-energy supply chain, and test drives of cars that can run on blends of two different types of fuel, like ethanol and gasoline.
Sustainable Foothills, formerly the Caldwell Green Commission, focuses on educational outreach on energy efficiency and conservation, recycling and more, executive director Melissa Patton said. One of its programs, Green Scholars, helps high school students learn about sustainable practices, from building miniature wind turbines and working with a solar oven to making trips to solar farms and the Appalachian State University wind turbine, which is the largest in the state, Patton said.
The final stop of the day was a tour of the Catawba EcoComplex in Hickory, a facility that houses a landfill but harvests the methane given off by the waste, burning it to produce enough energy to power about 1,400 homes.
Waechter and Verdante partnered with Sustainable Foothills to organize Wednesday’s events. Plans are in the works for another event next year, he said.