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CH4 Biogas

Biogas plant on the drawing board for ag park since 2014 reemerges in planning process

By Howard B. Owens
digester tank
Design rendering from area variance application submitted by Genesee BIogas for a tall digester tank for a proposed plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in the Town of Batavia.

A long-discussed plan to build a biogas plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-business Park in the Town of Batavia is again moving forward with the recommended approval on Thursday of a height variance for a storage tank on the property.

CH4 Biogas of Covington, operating the business name Genesee Biogas for the project,  first proposed the plant in 2014

Sara Gilbert, of Pinewood Engineering, asked the board to Genesee County Planning Board on Thursday to recommend approval for the company to build a digester storage tank taller than allowed by zoning code.  The biogas plant seeks approval for an 83.5-foot tall digester tank.

Gilbert noted that the board previously recommended approval of the variance for a plant location that was going to be just outside the ag park but the Town of Batavia board prefers the company build the plant inside the park so the application for the variance needed to be resubmitted for the new location in the park.

She also noted that HP Hood was granted a variance for a much taller tank, and Oatka Milk has tanks with heights that do not conform to the zoning code so the Genesee Biogas proposal is consistent with existing construction in the area.

The board approved the recommendation with one no-vote, from Eric Biscaro, who expressed concern about potential odor from the plant.

eric biscaro 2023 planning board
Eric Biscaro
Photo by Howard Owens.

"I don't care what the height of the tank is, personally," Biscaro said. "I mean, I'm right next to this thing, and I would just as soon get back into that park further because I work at Armor (Building Supply) right down the road from Oatka and Let me tell you, it's pretty ripe there sometimes. And I'm close to this plant, living near there then I am at work. I'm under the impression that this plant is going to smell worse than Oatka."

No, Gilbert said, everything at the plant is enclosed, and the air coming out of the plant is filtered.

"It is different than maybe a more traditional digester," Gilbert said. "It actually has a negative pressure system that can pull the air out and put it through a biofilter system that filters the air. So it does not have a strong smell. And it doesn't have any animal waste at all associated with it. It's only food-grade waste from the plants in the park."

Genesee County Planning Director also informed the board that the only matter on the agenda for Thursday was the high variance. Genesee Biogas will present at a later date a site plan review, where issues such as odor can be considered.

In 2014, at a previous public meeting, Paul Toretta, CEO of CH4 Biogas, explained how the plant works: "We make green power out of organic waste. Once the digester does its thing, it captures methane and powers an engine that makes green power and puts it on the grid. The engine produces heat that can be used to heat Quaker Muller and Alpina (the plants in the park at the time), helping them cut their heating bill."

Quaker Muller's plant is now owned and operated by HP Hood, and Alpina is owned and operated by the Upstate Milk Cooperative.


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