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Great Neck district plans $12.2M facility to convert grease to heat, electricity

The Great Neck Water Pollution Control District plans to build a multimillion-dollar facility in North Hempstead that will convert used cooking grease to electricity and heat.

The district has received $12.2 million in state funding to pay for construction, officials with Empire State Development announced Thursday. The funds are part of the district’s larger plan to upgrade its facility on East Shore Road in Great Neck.

District officials plan to install an $11.5 million, 2,500-square-foot grease receiving station. Once built, the district will charge local businesses to dispose of used grease. State and district officials said Friday that the station will be the first of its kind in New York.

“This is a proven technology that can be reproduced, and we’re excited that we’re the first ones doing it,” said Christopher Murphy, the district’s superintendent.

Murphy said construction will probably begin in early 2018 and be completed by February 2020.

The $12.2 million has been allocated from the 2017-18 state budget. The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council provided $770,000 toward the project, which Empire State will oversee in addition to administering the funding.

State Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) said in a statement Friday that she helped secure the money from the state.

“Nassau County currently lacks a facility capable of handling commercial grease disposal on a large scale, and constructing a local station is long overdue,” she said.

Businesses largely send grease to private stations in Suffolk County or elsewhere in New York State, hauling industry representatives have said.

The control district was created in 1914 and serves more than 25,000 residents in Great Neck, Saddle Rock and Kensington, as well as in parts of Thomaston, Manhasset and Great Neck Plaza.

District officials want to use the $700,000 to buy a third microturbine to help generate more electricity as well as to upgrade three anaerobic digesters, large storage tanks that have no oxygen inside but are filled with acetogens and methanogens. The microorganisms break down the molecules of organic matter and convert them into methane gas. The grease is heated inside and sits for weeks while the microorganisms do their work. The resulting methane is then pumped out and into the microturbines.

The grease station, digesters and microturbines will work together to generate electricity and heat, Murphy said. Adding grease from the station into the digesters will allow the digesters to give off methane gas, which the microturbines use as fuel to make electricity. While making the electricity, the microturbines will be running hot, thus emitting heat.

The upgrades will allow the facility to produce 50 percent more electricity and 100 percent more heat, according to Empire State documents.

“We’re actually going to save money in how much sludge we have to haul away,” Murphy said. “And we’ll save in electricity costs. This is about as free of a lunch as you can get.”

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