‘Seinfeld' actor launches waste-to-energy company

By Anna Austin
John O'Hurley, well-known for his portrayal of Jacopo Peterman on the sitcom "Seinfeld," as the host of the TV game show "Family Feud" and as the season one winner of "Dancing with the Stars," has taken on a new role in a less-glamorous industry that will convert hog manure into power. O'Hurley and his new company Energy-Inc. have signed a contract to install a waste-to-energy system at High Ridge Farm in North Carolina to convert waste from the farm's 3,000 hogs into electricity.

O'Hurley, who said his interest and convictions in renewable energy aren't a surprise to those who know him, described the company's initiatives as the result of a two-year ramp up. "The technology hasn't had a presence in this country, but it's been used with quite a bit of success for the past 10 years or so in Europe and Asia because fuel prices, historically, have made it a comfortable environment," he said.

Now that the technology has been improved since its migration to the U.S., it has evolved into an efficient mechanism to produce large amounts of energy from waste, O'Hurley said. Much higher fuel prices in the U.S. and a more technologically and government-friendly climate for clean technologies influenced the decision to introduce the Advanced Thermal Conversion Technology in this country, he added.

Nevada-based Energy-Inc. has an exclusive license to distribute the ATCT system, which O'Hurley said involves two main platforms. "One, we take any waste that has a Btu value such as manure, municipal solid waste, agriculture waste, wood waste-anything not nuclear or metal-and produce electricity with near zero emissions through a pyrolytic gasification technology," O'Hurley said. "We super heat the waste without the presence of oxygen to generate a synthesis gas; the gas turns a generator if necessary or can used as a replacement for natural gas. It's an entirely closed system and produces steam, heat, hot water and residual biochar."

O'Hurley described the footprint of a typical system as being able to fit in the back of an 18-wheel truck. A daily input of 500 tons of waste biomass should yield about 1.9 million Btu of syngas and 9,125 tons of biochar fertilizer annually.

The system to be installed at High Ridge Farm is a 12-ton per day unit. "It's our first attempt to move into an industry that has been zeroed in on as the No. 1 polluter because of methane and the residual effluent," O'Hurley said. "It's a significant environment problem, and also a public relations problem because of the stench; nobody wants to live near one, and we can change that template for them."

The system will enable farms such as High Ridge to utilize all of the effluent/manure, which moves through flow systems directly into the power plant. "This will provide all of High Ridge's electricity, and also some excess to sell back to the grid," O'Hurley said.

Soon, Energy-Inc. will also be working to develop closed environments for the hog industry, using the byproduct of their units-controlled hot air-to provide a consistent 72-degree Fahrenheit environment for swine. "This will create a stress-free environment as hogs are very sensitive to their environmental conditions, and their size can be really affected by stress," O'Hurley said.

The systems are available for purchase and there is no capital outlay, according to O'Hurley. "We'll bring it to them," he said. "It's done like a car lease-they purchase the power from us at a reduced rate, and anything leftover, they participate in that as well."

He added that the system at High Ridge Farm should be complete and operational within six months.