The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Piedmont Biofuels: a clean, green, energy-producing machine

(Joy Damon)

Lawnmowers. Buses. Emergency generators. What do these have in common? They can all be powered by biodiesel.

Piedmont Biofuels, a small renewable energy company in Pittsboro, produces biodiesel that can be used to power all of these devices and more.

The co-op does everything from researching sustainable ways to produce fuel to leading green workshops in order to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

“Given rising energy needs, as well as the impact energy production has on global warming and other environmental problems, our communities need new sources of less harmful energy, such as the energy produced by Piedmont Biofuels,” said Kyle Dell, associate professor of political science, in an email interview.

Piedmont Biofuels collects waste fats, oils and greases from food service establishments and turns them into biodiesel.

Biodiesel is a vegetable oil- or animal fat-based diesel fuel that can be blended with or used in place of petroleum diesel to power transportation vehicles.

Lyle Estill, president of Piedmont Biofuels, values how easy it is for people to use biodiesel as an energy source.

“We make a product, biodiesel, that can be dropped directly into any diesel engine,” said Estill. “You don’t have to convert your car, you don’t have to call your mechanic, you don’t have to go under your hood; you just fill up and drive.”

The nuts and bolts of producing biodiesel are complex, but Piedmont Biofuels is enthusiastic in educating as many people as possible about how the fuel works and how other people can get involved.

Tami Schwerin is the executive director of the Abundance Foundation, a non-profit organization that works with Piedmont Biofuels on sustainability education. Her job consists of hosting tours of the biodiesel plant and sustainable agriculture farm, putting on biodiesel workshops with Piedmont Biofuels and organizing community events to celebrate sustainability.

“We have all sorts of community events, including a Pepper Festival to highlight local food and sustainable agriculture; Pecha Kucha, a presentation format for folks to get ideas out to the public; and many gatherings and celebrations around sustainability successes,” Schwerin said in an email interview.

Guilford collaborates with Piedmont Biofuels as well. Our cafeteria donates excess cooking oil to Piedmont Biofuels, who process it into biodiesel and distribute it all over the state for automobile use.

Snehal Deshmukh, director of dining services, appreciates Guilford’s connection with the co-op.

“There are many benefits from our relationship with Piedmont Biofuels,” said Deshmukh in an email interview. “Not only does it keep our cooking oil out of the waste stream, but it also helps create a renewable, clean-burning, North Carolina-grown fuel. Having a fuel source that is locally produced is a major step in creating a more locally-based economy.”

Piedmont Biofuels is vehement about getting others, including the Guilford community, involved with the co-op and with sustainability in general.

Joseph Ezzel, a former member of the plant engineering and design-build teams for Piedmont Biofuels, hopes that people will seek out sustainable organizations and get involved.

“Most green groups welcome anyone who is interested in learning about or becoming involved with efforts to preserve our resources and protect our environment,” said Ezzell, who has now formed a separate company that builds biofuel production equipment. “Make contact and show interest. That will get the ball rolling.”

Schwerin agrees that a major step in becoming involved is to take initiative.

“All of the events and activities are to educate the public about the importance of local food and renewable energy,” Schwerin said. “The objective is to give folks skills that they can use to help in their path to sustainability and make things fun. The message is: go do something.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Guilfordian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *