CleanWorld News

Sacramento Business Journal: Warren Smith, Green Business News Maker

Posted at November 12, 2010

Read the original article at: Newsmaker|Warren Smith | Sacramento Business Journal

Warren Smith is a dreamer. He has experience turning a dream into reality and wants to do it again.

Smith’s first dream was bringing baseball to Sacramento. He brought together other dreamers, including Bob Hemond and Art Savage, who became the majority owner of the team that began playing in 2000 at Raley Field. Smith had negotiated the acquisition of land in West Sacramento for the facility, and with Raley’s chief executive officer Chuck Collings, for use of the Raley’s name.

Savage succumbed to lung cancer in 2009, but he and Smith had seen the River Cats become the most successful minor league baseball franchise in the country.

Smith left the River Cats in 2008 “because I wanted the people there to have the space to learn the business, and for me to find other passions.”

He found a passion, and another dream.

“I believe we’ve found a way to produce renewable energy and diminish or eliminate our need for foreign energy sources, including oil,” he said.

What prompted the dream?

After I left the River Cats, I found myself thinking about the impact I was having on the world, and I began looking at ways that I might be a better steward of the Earth. I bought a Prius, for one thing.

During that time I was asked by some friends at UC Davis to look at some technology that was being developed to see if there might be a place on the market for it.

I met Dr. Ruihong Zhang, a professor of biological and agricultural engineering who focuses on organic-waste management and air quality control. She has developed what she calls an “anaerobic digester” which uses microorganisms to break down wet organic waste, taken from landfills, and produces gas that can be used to produce electricity.

Wet organic waste, food waste, agricultural waste, green waste, comprises 26 percent of the waste profile in the United States, about 16 million tons of organic waste every year. When that waste breaks down, it produces gas. This waste, if left untreated, is a major source of harmful greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, experts estimate that methane emissions from such types of organic waste are 72 times more harmful than CO2 emissions from automobiles.

What does Dr. Zhang’s digester do?

Dr. Zhang’s idea was to collect that wet waste and allow anaerobic digesters to produce gas efficiently, cleanse it, and use it to produce clean energy.

That would be very valuable because of AB 32, because it is a renewable clean-energy source. The technology could make several things happen. It creates a renewable byproduct, it saves landfill space, and it’s a better way of converting than just putting it in a hole in the ground.

Our objective is to commercialize the technology.

The conversion of gas to energy is not a new idea, is it?

Not at all. In Europe there are thousands of plants using this idea, but not with this advanced technology. Dr. Zhang’s technology is more efficient. In effect, the waste is being chewed and digested, not subjected to grinding and pulping as the European systems do. It’s a lower cost and more efficient way of doing the same thing.

East Bay MUD (Municipal Utility District) is using a test system with a slightly different technology, but Dr. Zhang’s system is going to be a pilot program at UC Davis, and we’re in the process of selecting a site for the system. We believe we’ll have it up and operating by the end of next June.

There’s quite a bit of interest, so we’re very optimistic. There are four of us working on this, and we want to make a difference in the world.