James Peret, the inventor of the VegaWatt explains how to generate electricity from used vegetable oil.
Ben Lack: We’re here with James Peret with VegaWatt at the National Restaurant Association Conference. Thanks for giving us some of your time.
James Peret: Oh, sure. No problem.
Ben Lack: You have a very cool technology that I’d love to learn about. So please talk to us about the VegaWatt.
James Peret: Sure. The VegaWatt is a system that is eventually sold to restaurants. It allows restaurants to reclaim the value their waste vegetable oil. So for every gallon of oil that a restaurant puts into this machine, they get back directly between three and four dollars in energy costs. So it’s a tremendous savings. Restaurants, based on their own fryer oil, what they’re throwing away today, provide between ten to twenty-five percent of the power needs for their restaurants.
Ben Lack: Is it a lot of oil that a restaurant throws away?
James Peret: Not really. We have a product range that really targets a lot of different, typical establishments. Everywhere from a thirty-gallons a week all the way up to a hundred twenty gallons a week. We can provide a unit that will give you a very strong financial return. Above a hundred twenty gallons a week, we can put together a customer system for you.
Ben Lack: Now talk to us about how you came up with this system.
James Peret: Well, it started out, honestly, with selfish-intent. I was, at the time, looking into the biodiesel trade. This was back in 2007 or so when biodiesel was really big. And the media would have you believe that you could pick up this oil for free, very easily turn it into biodiesel, and drive your car for free. It’s only free if you don’t consider your time valuable. I looked into the amount of equipment you need, the process – how wasteful it is. Between methanol which is a petroleum product. So you’re not free of foreign oil. You need lye which is a very hazardous chemical. Every year during the biodiesel production, a lot of people burn their houses down to do this stuff.
Thirty percent of what you produce is glycerin. It’s a waste product. It has to be thrown away. Actually, you should treat as hazardous waste because it’s contaminated with methanol and lye. And the end-product for transportation purposes, you’re limited by the laws of thermodynamics to about thirty-five percent efficiency. I didn’t like any of that. I looked more towards the straight vegetable oil kits which it’s a change in philosophy rather than altering the chemical composition of the oil to run on a standard engine. You modify a standard engine so that it burns the oil inherently. And really that’s all we’ve done here.
I realize that the value property of issuing to restaurants isn’t free disposal. They can get free disposal from anybody. The value is reclaiming that oil cost so that the restaurant can benefit as well.
Ben Lack: So someone’s going to give you their oil. And what are you doing to do?
James Peret: Restaurants retain their oil. They buy the unit. As restaurants have oil to dispose of, they pour it into the machine.
Ben Lack: Where do they pour it into?
James Peret: They pour it into the hopper over here. It’s a fairly simple set up. Anyone from the restaurant industry recognizes the 55-gallon drum. These are barrels they had out back anyway. They pour it in here. It’s an automated process from there on. There’s no switches or dials or buttons here. Literally, pouring a bucket of oil into this system will start the process. So it turns on automatically. It cleans and refines that oil. Filters it down to the point at which it becomes a combustible product for us in the engine. The engine combusts that fuel. It produces electricity off of a generator head. Produces hot water. We clean that as well. And on this end of the system, we have an inverter. That inverter allows us to tie seamlessly back into the restaurant so that we’re not dedicating the unit to any specific machine or lighting. So there’s no transition. When this unit is provided power, it’s synchronized and seamlessly integrated into the grid. We’re running parallel with the grid. We feed back into a standard distribution panel. And as this system comes up and goes down as oil is available and treated, there’s no flick of lights. There’s no equipment that’s going to come up or come down, depending on this system, it’s completely seamless.
Ben Lack: Cool. And how much does this system costs?
James Peret: This unit currently lists for $32,000. This is a five-kilowatt unit. It will return a payback in two to three years, depending on your present electricity and hot water. If you want to think of it in terms of monthly lease, there’s third-party leasing available. Pre-approved, the rates are about $450 a month for this. The monthly benefit is about $850 a month. So, restaurant, month one, you get to pocket $400. That’s not bad for a product that you’ve been throwing away.
Ben Lack: Is this product patented or are there ways that you’re protecting…
James Peret: We’ve got patents. They’re in actual patents.
Ben Lack: And how can people learn more about the technology?
James Peret: They can go to our website, vegawatt.com, and contact my VP of Sales or myself. And we’d more than happy to answer any questions you have.
Ben Lack: James, thanks so much for the time and good luck.
James Peret: Thank you.