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Engineering a better environment

Bill Sperry fuels biodiesel program

Created date

August 24th, 2009

Cedar Crest is looking a little greener, and it has nothing to do with the lawns on the community s 130-acre campus. It s been three months since the first-ever management/ resident team unveiled its green biodiesel fuel conversion system for campus buses and everything is rolling along smoothly. We re exactly where we projected we would be, says Bill Sperry, a chemical engineer who retired from Dupont after 37 years and now lives at Cedar Crest. We re on target saving money, training new operators, and reducing pollution to do our part to create a change in our collective carbon footprint. Catalyst of change Sperry says that Labor Day marked the one-year anniversary of when Erickson s Chief Operating Officer Mark Erickson challenged campuses across the country to go green with a variety of initiatives, including the gradual move to more gas-efficient, environmentally friendly vehicles. I called upon Bill to work with our staff to come up with a solution, and they did a wonderful job, Cedar Crest Executive Director Cathy Guttman says. They jumped right on it, and we really worked together as a team. Sperry says it took a few months to choose a vendor, research the blueprints, and modify an existing garage as a mini processing plant. The idea is to utilize a resource that is abundant and easy to access on campus. That resource happens to be used cooking oil generated from five kitchens that feed more than 1,800 residents on a daily basis. Good deal We tease the cooks to keep that oil coming, says Project Manager Rich Ferguson. We produce approximately 500 gallons of used cooking oil per month, and then we process it into 80-gallon batches that can be pumped directly into any of the community s vehicles and equipment that run on diesel. Sperry says that Cedar Crest only uses three campus buses for the conversion right now because once the buses travel on state roads, an additional gas tax is assessed. [caption id="attachment_2038" align="alignright" width="280" caption="(File photo)"][/caption] It s a good business deal because we not only save on the cost of diesel fuel, we also save on the cost of having to haul away the used cooking oil, Sperry says. Now, there s the possibility of having local restaurants deliver their used oil right to us. Biodiesel is a clean-burning alternative fuel produced from domestic, renewable resources. It contains no petroleum, is nontoxic, and is essentially free from sulfur and aromatics. Use of biodiesel fuel in campus buses will improve mileage by adding approximately three miles to each gallon. Ferguson says the overall savings right now is about $1,000 a month. And Cedar Crest is setting the precedent for others in the neighborhood to follow suit. We were thrilled when representatives from local Bloomfi eld Township showed up to tour our facilities, Ferguson says. They are interested in running their public works trucks on biodiesel fuel. Building on experience For Sperry, who was born and raised in North Plainfield and educated in engineering at Cornell, Cedar Crest s biodiesel program provides a chance to stay connected to a job he loved for nearly 40 years. (He was even named Delaware s Engineer of the Year in 1996!) Still, he says his most precious gifts are his children, grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter who is the apple of his eye. And underlying his desire to help the environment is the fact that he cherishes the people in it. I enjoy so many things here at Cedar Crest the hiking club, the wood shop but it s really nice that management recognizes the tremendous amount of expertise among its residents. You name any subject and there s an expert here at Cedar Crest who worked in that specifi c area. We re just a living library. Check us out!