Construction of Ward Hill Anaerobic Digester More Than Half-Way Complete

Vanguard Renewables Executive Chairman John Hanselman, right, reviews the anaerobic digester construction project. (WHAV News photograph.)

An organics-to-energy construction project at a Ward Hill farm has passed the half-way mark, and is on target to begin selling electricity to the city this coming spring.

Vanguard Renewables of Wellesley has completed about 63 percent of the project at the 350-acre Crescent Farm, 1058 Boston Road. Despite the rain, Vanguard’s Executive Chairman John Hanselman took WHAV listeners on a tour of the site Tuesday. Hanselman explained how different cells at the anaerobic digester combine to create energy from decaying wastes.

“There will be a series of containerized control systems that will take the gas in, will dry it and will pull all of the water out of it and then prepare it to go into the generator. Then we will use it as renewable natural gas to fire the generator,” he said.

Odors are intentionally contained because they are actually the fuel for the generator, Hanselman has said. Leftover solids become natural fertilizer for the farm operated by third-generation owner C. Michael “Mike” Davidowicz. The Ward Hill project is the Vanguard’s fourth, aimed at meeting the state’s 2014 ban on sending food wastes to landfills.

“By the end of 2018 when this opens and our other systems are open, Massachusetts will be the leading recycler of food wastes in the United States through anaerobic digestion,” Hanselman said.

By April, food and farm wastes from such companies as Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods, Cabot Creamery, Whole Foods and Crescent Farm is expected to fuel a generator producing a megawatt of electricity. While a renewable energy, Hanselman explains the benefits over wind or solar.

“It’s interesting, the comparison between a megawatt, for example, of solar renewable energy and this renewable energy is that we’re consistent at a megawatt so whether the sun rises or sets and the wind blows or doesn’t blow, we make a megawatt of power 24/7.”

The city expressed interest a year ago in buying power from the project at 13 cents per kilowatt hour Haverhill’s board of health gave the project its blessing last April. So-called “waste heat” from the project will warm barns at Crescent Farm or, perhaps, a future greenhouse.