“People need to be committed to these projects, and the way to get their commitment is to invite them in to participate.”
The success of a sustainability project is contingent on community backing and participation, affirms Rick Sellers, featured in episode #9 of the Raise Green podcast series. He has worked to promote clean energy and sustainability since the very first commercial solar systems, notably helping convert the International Energy Agency from a fossil fuel analysis juggernaut to a forward-thinking clean energy pioneer. Rick joins co-founders Franz Hochstrasser and Matt Moroney. “Raise Green” is a 9 episode podcast series exploring the climate crises through the minds of local leaders and global experts. Listen to the approximately 15 minute Episode #9 here on Spotify.
What is Rick working on currently?
Rick (Circular Fuels LLC) is working on an anaerobic digestion project on Barbados, located on a sandbar near a former fossil fuel terminal. The Spring Garden Anaerobic Digester Project would convert wastewater from the West Indies Rum Distillery combined with local sources of agricultural waste into heat, electricity, and organic fertilizer to revitalize the island’s agriculture sector.
This simultaneously reduces the distillery’s reliance on fossil fuels, cuts down their energy costs, and stops hundreds of thousands of tons of waste from being pumped into the ocean.
The project has a planned capacity of 5 megawatts of renewable energy, which Rick explains will account for approximately 3% of the island’s energy needs.
The Circular Economy
Similar to our very first guest, on the Raise Green Podcast Episode #1, the Circular Economy is the guiding principle behind Rick’s recent work. He believes that environmentally-impactful projects like solar panels and Anaerobic Digesters are interwoven into the fabric of the community in which they are located. Thus, projects must take place in the context of community and social sustainability.
Along those lines, the Spring Garden Anaerobic Digester Project would benefit the community at multiple levels. At a national level, it brings the country closer to their goal of 100% fossil fuel free by 2030. It would provide the entire island with a source of energy that’s significantly cheaper than the fossil fuel imports of the status quo. Feedstock outreach has ensured that local operations (e.g. the largest chicken farm on the island) have a place to send their waste, creating what Rick explains is a “win-win” situation – the project gets raw material to process into energy and heat, and locals get to dispose of their waste with less hassle.
Rick’s project is fueled by community funds alongside community waste products. Rick explains it was imperative to him that small scale investors on the island be provided the opportunity to invest in Spring Garden, which is why his project is exploring a crowdfunding raise.
Spring Garden Anaerobic Digester is a powerful example of a truly circular economy project that benefits the climate while giving back to the community.
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