SEaB Energy helps hospitality and leisure industry turn food waste into energy


In November of last year the government-sponsored Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) announced that the hospitality industry faces an annual bill in excess of £2.5 billion for food waste and warned that this could top £3 billion by 2016 unless action is taken. This equates to almost 1.3bn meals wasted annually with an average cost to each outlet of £10,000 each year.

The report, one of the most comprehensive produced yet, revealed that 920,000 tonnes of food is wasted each year, with only 46% currently being recycled, sent for anaerobic digestion or composted, with an estimated the cost to the industry of £2,800 per tonne.

Whilst much can be done to address unavoidable food waste, the catering, hotel and leisure industry is now looking for radical solutions to help address the problem by turning their waste mountain into a valuable income stream. The good news is that their viable solutions commercially available that will turn this green waste – including grass cuttings from hotel gardens and golf courses – into energy which can then be used on site or sold back to the grid, thereby creating positive incomes streams and eliminating waste disposal costs.

Best Western Hotel and the University of Southampton Science Park

One such solution, which has been successfully in operation for 18 months, is employed at the Best Western Chilworth Manor Hotel; a Victorian manor house hotel located in 12 acres on the University of Southampton Science Park (USSP). The hotel comprises 95 bedrooms, a health club and 11 conference meeting rooms sufficient to cater for up to 160 delegates, whilst the Science Park supports a wide range of organisations in 400,000 square feet of mixed single and multi-tenant buildings with over 900 individuals employed across 75 organisations.

In May 2012, USSP, having installed energy efficient climate control systems in the form of air source heat pumps and heat recovery mechanisms in both new and refurbished buildings, it entered into an Electricity Service Company (ESCo) relationship with SEaB Energy to deploy the company’s innovative, and multi-award winning, Flexibuster™ onsite containerised micro power plant.

In a collaborative approach, undertaken between the hotel and USSP, an average of 500 kg of kitchen food waste, cooking oil and spent alcoholic drinks are collected and, together with waste from the grounds, processed each day through the Flexibuster™. As a result, the hotel and USSP are now able to take advantage of the energy harvesting potential of food and organic waste produced on the site - previously had been an untapped resource - whilst eliminating costs associated with the collection and disposal of their green wastes.

Steve Axton, Maintenance Manager, Best Western Hotel, Chilworth Manor said:

SEaB Energy’s Flexibuster™ has been a revelation in the way we now manage our food waste. It ticks all our important recycling and sustainability boxes as well as health, safety and cleanliness,

Electricity and heat generated from the biogas production is used within the Science Park offices and research and development laboratories whilst the liquid digestate is being used to as a nutrient-rich fertiliser at a local turfing and landscaping company. The 8 kW combined heat and power unit (CHP) produces an average of 105 m3/day of biogas based on the estimated annual feedstock which in turn provides approximately 57 MW of electricity per annum. Through the generation of energy and the elimination of waste disposal costs, the unit produces net revenues of around £20,000 per annum whilst achieving a payback of just five years.

As part of the agreement with USSP, SEaB Energy was able to secure the finance to fund implementation. Whilst the majority of SEaB Energy’s customers, having seen the revenue generation potential, have chosen to fund the Flexibuster™ purchase themselves, for those that cannot, particularly smaller businesses, then SEaB Energy is also able to provide many more qualifying catering, hospitality or food manufacturing companies the opportunity of a funded package.

System Modelling for Best Western Chilworth Manor

Product: Flexibuster™ MB24

Investment: £120,000

Capacity: 500 kg of food and other green wastes per day

Electricity Generated: 53,100 kWh per year

Heat Generated: 54,850 kWh per year

Annual Income:  £29,000

Waste Disposal Savings per annum:  £7,300

Operating Costs per annum: £9,415

Payback: 5 years

Opportunities for Hotels and Golf Courses; SEaB Energy’s cutting edge technology turns grass clippings into power

As well as producing food waste from their bars and kitchens, hotels and golf courses also produce a huge amount of grass cuttings. According to the English Golf Union, a typical 18-hole golf course will generate between eight to 10 tonnes of fresh cuttings each year which equates to between 300 and 500 kg per week. Most courses compost their cuttings, reducing the volume of material substantially through loss of liquid fraction - which comprises 70 to 80% of the total leaf material. Sadly, this liquid contains a concentrated potassium solution and will kill turf by scorching. Moreover, if this liquid enters waterways it is highly toxic to aquatic life.

SEaB Energy’s Flexibuster™ is capable of processing grass cuttings, along with the food waste from the kitchens, turning this untapped natural resource into a rich source of energy. Because of the additional volume of waste, a larger capacity version of the Flexibuster™ may be required. Whilst, the initial outlay is higher, the payback period is significantly reduced to three and a half years, meanwhile generating £71,000 net income.

System Modelling for a Hotel or Golf Course

Product: Flexibuster™ MB48

Investment: £242,250

Capacity: 600 kg of food waste per day plus 600 kg of grass clippings per day

Electricity Generated: 53,100 kWh per year

Heat Generated: 366,000 kWh per year

Annual Income:  £88,000

Operating Costs per annum: £17,000

Payback: 3.5 years

In addition to the energy and heat benefits, the bi-product of the microbial process results in an organic, PAS 110 compliant digestate that has proven to be a highly effective organic fertiliser, for use on the gardens, lawns and courses or even sold on to create an additional revenue stream.

In fact, Best Western Chilworth Manor is already supplying a local commercial turf grower with its digestate. According to Robert Hack, owner and Managing Director of Solent Turf Supplies:

The results so far indicate that the area, sprayed with the digestate, has grown as well as that treated with our usual chemical fertiliser. Given its performance, and the fact that the digestate is 100% organic, we believe that that a wide range of growers will place increasing value on this natural feedstock.

Posted in: ADBA News, Industry News, Members' press release, News for Members, Policy updates, R&D Updates

Tags: casestudy, food waste, Hospitality, leisure