MI students seek biodiesel production funds

By Erin Voegele | October 25, 2010
Posted Oct. 27, 2010

An initiative in Saline, Mich., is seeking a $50,000 grant through the Pepsi Refresh Project to establish a small-scale biodiesel production facility that would serve the Saline Area School District. "The purpose of the Pepsi grant is to reduce dependence on the petrochemical industry for propane, fertilizer and electricity," said David K. Mellor, an instructor at Saline High School who is involved in the project. If funded, the biodiesel production facility will convert waste vegetable oil from the district's cafeterias into fuel.

The grant is being sought by the Green Hornet Initiative, a group of students, faculty, staff and community members in the district that are working to create a more sustainable future. The group, which is pursuing several projects including the production of biodiesel and organic fertilizer, aims to raise environmental awareness on campus and throughout Southeast Michigan. According to Mellor, the projects will inspire students to pursue careers in alternative energy and sustainable agriculture.

Biodiesel produced through the project would primarily be used to fuel diesel-powered grounds equipment, said Mellor. The fuel could also potentially be used to heat a greenhouse that has been developed under the Green Hornet Initiative. "We would have to get state approval to use biodiesel experimentally to heat it [versus] wood chips," he continued. "But, I plan to apply for the variance permit when, and if, we get the Pepsi grant-not before." The greenhouse will initially be heated with propane. "We would have to look at a different heating system to use biodiesel as the fuel," Mellor said. Chris Schilling, department head of engineering at Saginaw Valley State University, is currently experimenting with biodiesel as a heat source and is serving as an advisor for the project, Mellor continued.

The grant proposal is scheduled to go live on the Pepsi Refresh Project website on Nov. 1, at which time the public can vote for the project. Proposals with the most votes will receive funding.
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