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Al Gore’s New Passion: Organic Waste Recycling

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Recycling is a tried-and-true form of energy efficiency, so it’s no surprise that greentech investors such as Al Gore would find the concept appealing. That interest has translated into a $51.7 million round for Harvest Power, to enable the company to build facilities that turn organic waste into fertilizer and energy.

Waltham, Mass.-based Harvest Power builds and operates plants that use composting and anaerobic digestion technology to breakdown food scraps and yard clippings. The technologies not only produce fertilizers, but also biogas that can be used to produce electricity or be processed into compressed natural gas for transportation fuel. The company started in 2008 and is already operating five plants in North America, including a yard waste composting center for Waste Management (s wm) in Pennsylvania.

Generation Investment Management, co-founded by Al Gore, who visited one of Harvest Power’s plants last October, led the $51.7 million B round. Other investors include DAG Ventures, Keating Capital, Kleiner Perkins and Waste Management. To date, Harvest Power has raised $77.5 million in equity, $38 million in debt and $11 million government grants, the company said.

Harvest Power plans to use the new funding to build more composting and anaerobic digestion facilities in North America and add recycling technologies, such as a high-temperature process to create synthesis gas, to its offerings. Syngas can be used to produce electricity, transportation fuels and other chemical products. Producing syngas would complement efforts by trash king Waste Management to profit from its municipal wastes collections.

In fact, Waste Management recently put more money into a California company called Genomatica that plans to turn syngas into a compound for making spandex, running shoes and auto parts. Waste Management, which has invested aggressively in companies that turn trash into products, also signed a research and development deal with Genomatica.

Harvest Power is building an anaerobic digestion facility — the Fraser Richmond Soil & Fibre — near Vancouver, Canada, where it already operates a composting center. The company plans to complete the project’s first phase, which will be able to take on 30,000 tons of organic waste per year, by 2011.

Harvest is developing its own technology but also makes use of others’ know-how. The company recently teamed up with Germany’s GICON Bioenergie to engineer and build processing plants using GICON’s anaerobic digestion technology.

Photo courtesy of Harvest Power

3 Responses to “Al Gore’s New Passion: Organic Waste Recycling”

  1. charlatangore

    We heard all the monetary figures….but where are the figures saying how much energy is currently being produced from this waste…..or projected energy output in a year from now for example…

    Sounds like hot air to me

  2. This is a very interesting post. I am actually in the office furniture business and we specialize in the provision of green and sustainable products. Quite a few of our office chairs are actually being manufactured using organic waste recycling methods. It’s also true that Genomatica is on the forefront of these innovative methods. Best Regards!