The way of the future in renewable, clean energy may be here and it goes by the name of GIPO.
Garbage In-Power Out (GIPO) is an energy processing system that uses raw sewage, garbage and medical waste to produce renewable energy cleanly, cost effectively and reliably.
“We are burying ourselves in garbage — there’s mountains of it everywhere,” said Chris Gillespie, president and CEO of Sustainable Waste Power Systems, which is based in Ridgefield. “This is an efficient, clean process that reduces garbage and waste and does something positive with it, while not harming the environment.
“What we are trying to do is recycle these waste materials and turn them into usable energy, which will reduce the waste load on grids as well as interstate travel on the roads.
“It’s a better use of this waste that is such a costly burden on our society. In our system its size is reduced by 95% and it is converted into recyclable ash byproduct that can be used as concrete.”
GIPO was publicly demonstrated for the first time in front of nearly two dozen prospective investors and interested community members at the Ridgefield Highway Department on Monday.
Mr. Gillespie has been working with his brother Mike, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, since 2008, when the company filed a patent for the process and the technology.
He estimates that GIPO could power 3,790 homes in town based on national averages.
In addition to GIPO, the company has a sister product named SaniVert, which converts medical waste to municipal waste and reduces the volume by 90%.
“What this product does is a provide a service to a municipality that takes medical waste, grinds it down into something that can be fed through our main pressure pump and go through the GIPO process and reduces its size so it then can be used,” Chris Gillespie said.
On Monday, the crowd watched the brothers feed 128 ounces of synthetic municipal waste, or “feedstock,” made up of organic, paper and plastic materials into the system for GIPO’s first successful test run.
After the synthetic municipal waste goes through the primary grinder and is put through the primary feeder, Mike Gillespie said, the waste is heated up under high pressure in the devolitization reactor, then goes through the gasification chamber before going through a “heat recovery” stage.
“This is not incineration; we are not burning the material — we are converting it,” he said.
He added that the waste comes out as “bio-char” after the devolitization reactor. In the gasifier, the “bio-char” substance is converted into methane gas, which is then cooled down.
The gas at the end of the process was 90 degrees, he said. “We are extremely accelerating the process of converting the gas into energy,” he explained to a few observers in the crowd.
Like any innovative process, GIPO comes with a hefty dollar sign attached to it. However, the short-term cost — Chris Gillespie estimates a total investment of $45 million for a two-module GIPO plant — could easily be made back up by long-term savings.
The two modules could produce 6.2 mega watts of power and that would process over 1,000 tons a month and over a million gallons of raw sewage.
He also explained that the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) is competitive when compared to other renewable energy technologies.
Additional revenues would be available to the town through the sale of Renewable Energy Credits, he said.
The potential long-term savings has the town considering implementing the technology.
“I’m not an engineer,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said after the successful demonstration. “On paper, it makes sense — the cost component of it. There’s tremendous savings to be made in the long term and now we have to determine what exactly they are going to be…
“There have to be considerations made before we go ahead and invest in a model plant.”
Mr. Marconi added that the process is most interesting because it leads no negative environmental impact.
“We are trying to go about reducing the size of our sewer plant in town, but want to do so with the least amount of damage to the town’s ecosystem,” he said.
Chris Gillespie said Mr. Marconi has been very supportive from the beginning, when he was initially shown the patent in 2008.
He says if GIPO is expanded and implemented in Ridgefield, it would need two modules, the first one costing around $25 million. However, the product’s scalable design concept makes it easier to add or subtract based on the size of town’s waste stream.
“We can stack the units on top of one another and that way, they won’t take up a lot of land,” he said. “It’s scaled to end-use waste stream, meaning its sized whatever way it needs to be.”
Mr. Gillespie said the GIPO “Philosophy” is also built around the fact the product line does not need to alter the waste to process it.
The Gillespies said GIPO’s “Holistic Process Approach” sets them apart from other sustainable energy systems, because heat and power are just as important as waste destruction.
Compared to other processing systems such as the Plasma Arc Direct Gasification, which Chris Gillespie referred to as “the industry’s little darling, GIPO technology is a single stream feedstock that doesn’t alter the water content of the stream and does not use a thermal flywheel in the process. Also, there is no presence of air or oxygen in the process, which produces an ash slurry byproduct instead of dry ash.
“Everyone else has to dry there byproduct out and that is timely and costly,” he said. “We are more efficient than everyone else because the process accepts raw waste streams.”
When defining “raw,” Chris Gillespie said that the waste stream could be as much as 95% water-based, but the wet waste feedstock usually requires anywhere from 60 to 80% water-based feed, which eliminates the drying process and benefits the process as a whole.
Furthermore, the system immediately and completely captures hazardous and contaminated waste, breaking down pathogens in the ash slurry.
“The waste doesn’t see the light of day until it becomes ash slurry and by that time all the hazards have been removed,” he said. “And that’s unique to the marketplace.”
GIPO is a renewable energy source not dependent upon the weather and it has a higher electrical output per ton than other waste to energy processes.
Lastly, there is no process-side exhaust.
Chris Gillespie estimates that it would take two years for his company to get the module in place in town, because of permit and zoning regulations. He said construction of a commercial plant would take around six months.
The company’s third member Joe Zambito, the second engineer in command, was in charge of gasification process during the initial GIPO demonstration.
Next week, the trio will go to Louisiana to present the process and test their product for only the second time in front of a live audience.
“Lots of work has gone in to get to this day,” Chris Gillespie said. “I’m happy it’s finally here and we get to show you what we’ve been working towards.”