Tri-State Biodiesel fuels Sept. 11 memorial

By Kris Bevill | August 08, 2008
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Web exclusive posted Sept. 15, 2008 at 3:28 p.m. CST

The biodiesel industry had a reason to feel hopeful when New York City's skyline was once again altered Sept. 11 by two bright white beams of light, commemorating the seventh anniversary of the attacks at the World Trade Center.

The Tribute in Light Memorial consisted of 88 spotlights strategically placed at the site of the World Trade Center. When lit, two vertical columns of light take the place of what once was the World Trade Center. This year, the generators used to power that installation were fueled by a 30 percent blend of domestically produced biodiesel. New York City-based Tri-State Biodiesel and its Ohio-based production partner JatroDiesel were awarded the supply contract and supplied 3,000 gallons of biodiesel to the project, according to Tri-State Chief Executive Officer Brent Baker.

The memorial was originally conceived by several independent artists and has been produced annually by the Municipal Art Society of New York. Since 2002, the memorial has been temporarily installed a week before Sept. 11, and then repositioned and tested nightly until Sept. 11, when the beams of light are lit at dusk and remain on until dawn.

The opportunity to fuel such a powerful tribute was important to Baker. "The memorial is a powerful symbol of hope and I find biodiesel and the move towards sustainability to also be a powerful symbol of hope," he said. "It makes a lot of sense to have this symbol of hope for the future in New York be powered by a sustainable fuel."

Michael Ahern, who was employed by the Municipal Art Society to produce the tribute, said he has often thought that using biodiesel to power the generators made sense, but the companies providing those generators haven't always agreed. Concerns about voiding equipment warranties often outweighed the notion of using domestically-produced fuel, Ahern said. In 2007, generators were powered with a B20 blend of biodiesel, but Ahern said the company contracted for the job was not comfortable making that information public due to warranty issue concerns.

This year, Caterpillar's Cat power generation systems were on site, powering the light installation with B30-fueled generators. Ahern credits the company for supporting the biodiesel industry and willing to use biodiesel blends in their equipment.

In the future, Baker said Tri-State plans to push to be a fuel provider for the construction of new buildings at the World Trade Center site. "We think it would be very appropriate if the construction equipment used be powered by a domestic fuel rather than oil that may come from the same countries that the terrorists come from," he said. "That's what we're pushing to do."

Ahern said this is the last year of funding for the Tribute in Light, but he's cautiously optimistic that funding will soon be in place for next year and that the tribute will continue to be an annual event.

There is no set timeline as to when construction of new buildings at the World Trade Center site will begin.
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