For many foreign clean-energy firms, California seems like the logical first stop in the U.S. market.
But Danish executives have found Georgia to be a more hospitable base for promoting their technology, a system that extracts biogas from organic waste and converts the remaining material into a fertilizer that can be used to treat soil.
“The obvious idea if you have a green technology is to start at the West Coast, but I was little bit afraid we would just be a drop in the water,” said Martin Hansen, president of Aikan North America Inc.
Aikan has set up an operation in the Accelerator, an incubator at the Trade Commission of Denmark in Atlanta. The company is working with the trade commission and the state of Georgia to find business partners.
“You have a very good sort of incubation environment for hosting these minor companies like ours,” Mr. Hansen said.
This week executives from Aikan and the Solum Gruppen, its parent company, visited Georgia cities including LaGrange, which already harvests some biogas from its landfills. The visit was a followup to a seminar the company conducted at Georgia Power on May 18.
Aikan’s system requires a facility with a normal biogas reactor, sorting machinery and a garage-like concrete structure with separate chambers in which organic waste – like yard clippings, food scraps and food grease – is converted into compost, Mr. Hansen said. The resulting biogas can be combusted to produce heat or electricity. The fertilizer can be used to enrich the soil on farms, golf courses or gardens, he said.
Building a facility that could process 10,000 metric tons annually would require about $3 million in investment. The Solum Gruppen operates two facilities in Denmark and Norway that process 18,000 and 35,000 metric tons each year, respectively, Mr. Hansen said.
For its first U.S. operation, Aikan hopes to partner with a landfill operator that already has sorting capabilities, he said.
The company is also looking at large supermarkets, military bases, college campuses and other large operations in which waste disposal is a significant expense. The Aikan system creates new revenue streams from the biogas and fertilizer while reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills.
This can lead to good publicity for companies at a time when Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about their environmental impact, he said.
“The public acceptance of landfilling has decreased significantly,” he said.
Though Aikan has competitors in Europe, the U.S. is basically a virgin market in the waste-to-energy field, Mr. Hansen said.
“It’s a very emerging market with regard to this technology,” he added.
A delegation of city leaders from Boras, Sweden, visited Savannah and surrounding cities July 12-16 to share their methods in using municipal waste to produce energy.
Boras Energy and Environment, the city-owned waste management company that spearheads efforts to turn trash into heating and cooling energy, has more than 140 employees and made a $4 million profit on $80 million in revenues in 2009.