Onion bulb or light bulb? Oxnard grower turns onion juice into green power

Media Contact:
Raul Gordillo

Media Contact:
Nikki Rodoni

Southern California Gas Co.

Gills Onions

(877) 866-2066

(831) 771-0699




        OXNARD, Calif., July 17, 2009 – In the new world of renewable energy, California onion bulbs now will power light bulbs – the common vegetable has transitioned from a simple food stock to a mini-power plant.

        Helping to make this transition possible is Gills Onions, the nation’s largest fresh onion processor, and developer of the onion juice-fueled Advanced Energy Recovery System it will debut today at its Oxnard, Calif., headquarters, 1051 S. Pacific Avenue.

        For installing the system, Gills Onions is eligible to receive $2.7 million from Southern California Gas Co. (The Gas Company) as part of a state program to encourage self-contained generation by businesses. 

        By extracting the juice from onion waste and letting it ferment in a special processing system, Gills Onions can create enough electric “juice” to power 460 homes through two 300-kilowatt fuel cells.  The innovative and cost-saving technology converts 100 percent of 300,000 pounds of onion waste daily into ultra-clean electrical energy, heat and high-value cattle feed, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 30,000 tons per year.

        “California is proud to be the nation’s leader in sustainability and also home to the finest produce in the country,” wrote Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a congratulatory letter to Gills Onions.  “You not only offer quality onions, but also use innovative techniques to reduce waste and increase energy efficiency, making our state greener than ever.”

        “The project provides a model for how an agricultural and processing operation can work towards a goal of zero waste, in terms of both materials and energy,” said Prab Sethi, project manager for the California Energy Commission.  “This project is an excellent example of outstanding environmental achievement.”

        “It is very gratifying for Gills Onions to be recognized as a leader in energy conservation after our years of research, and finally, success,” said Steven Gill, co-owner of Gills Onions.  “We would like to recognize The Gas Company’s major role in achieving this success and being instrumental in developing our relationship with the Gas Technology Institute and the California Energy Commission.  This collaboration helped us gain the knowledge and confidence to move forward with the project and realize our green energy vision.”

        “The state’s self-generation program is designed to encourage exactly this type of clean technology – transforming an onion into a renewable power source – and we are proud to be part of the team that helped Gills Onions turn this idea into reality,” said Hal D. Snyder, vice president of customer solutions at The Gas Company.  “We continually assist our customers in evaluating the costs and benefits of using the latest in clean-energy technology to generate power on-site and reduce the burden on the state’s power grid.”

        Gills Onions is a 25-year-old family-owned and -operated grower and food processor devoted to achieving maximum levels of energy efficiency, waste reduction and water conservation through sustainable business practices and technology. For more information, visit www.gillsonions.com  

        Southern California Gas Co. has been delivering clean, safe and reliable natural gas to its customers for more than 140 years.  It is the nation’s largest natural gas distribution utility, providing safe and reliable energy to 20.5 million consumers through 5.7 million meters in more than 500 communities.  The company’s service territory encompasses approximately 20,000 square miles in diverse terrain throughout Central and Southern California, from Visalia to the Mexican border.  The Gas Company is a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE).  Sempra Energy, based in San Diego, is a Fortune 500 energy services holding company.  For more information, visit www.socalgas.com.