"We produce a certificate of analysis with every load, so we let the customer know exactly what was in it. That's a necessary thing for the industry. A lot of biodiesel ships off spec, and that's a problem. Some operations are more in it for the money, and motivations aren't the same across the industry."
In the front yard, we are whisked past a bike rack ("Why would you waste your precious fuel going to lunch?!") to be shown a small strawbale unit housing a biodiesel tank - part of the B100 Community Trail — a network of self-service fuelling facilities for co-op members. The co-op has been fighting with the authorities to get the structure legal:
The co-op also sells tanks and off-grid pumping units to the public, so that they can have their own fuelling facilities in their backyard.
The site at industrial has also become a fertile space for 'incubating' and developing other green businesses. The site is home to the Abundance Foundation, a fund raising organization for local sustainability projects including PB, and the Green Bean Counter, a book keeper specializing in the needs of green businesses and non-profits. One of the facility's sheds is now a base for ECO (Eastern Carolina Organics), an organic food wholesaler. A vermiculture operation takes food and fine paper waste, and is intending to expand to also take waste from nearby businesses.
"He's heating the thing with propane, and then punching the CO2 from the heater back into the greenhouse to feed the plants. This is fairly unique, because he's at 90% efficiency. We've had multiple engineers come in here and say it can't be done, and it's really good Screech doesn't realize that. He's too busy growing lettuce to listen to what they are saying up at NC State!"
Meanwhile, PB are also getting in on the farming game. They have been running a small farm operation at the original co-op site, but their aim is to now step this up a level or two, further developing the sites industrial ecology approach, where one business fits into a niche created by another:
"The farm will basically be plugging the gaps of ECO. So they can tell us what they are missing this year, garlic for example, and we'll grow it and sell it to ECO who are on our doorstep. And these guys run on our B100, so it all fits in together. The trick is to keep everyone's interests aligned."
Lyle is slightly taken aback when we suggest they are a great example of industrial ecology. He argues that really, they are just working it out from moment to moment. This leads to a long discussion, that eventually becomes a blog entry, and Lyle eventually concedes that there are some very interesting parrallels with the natural world:
Everything we do fits nicely into this paradigm: Screech's hydroponics lettuce, ECO's organic vegetables, Industrial's boutique fuel, Blast's high speed Internet, David and Willy's custom fuelmaking systems, Bruce's hydro electric turbine-it appears everything we touch is carved out of a specialized niche.
Moving inside, we take a look at the staff kitchen — a beautiful day-lit space that used to be a machine shop. It was designed by Alicia Ravetto, a local architect specializing in green building, and features a living biowall (pictured at the top of the page) - a plant-based air cooling and purifying system. Lyle explains that fresh-air and sunlight were of central importance when they designed the refurbishment of the site.
Stay tuned for part three tomorrow, in which we visit the farm where it all began, and learn some more about how Lyle sees biofuels developing in the future.