Biodiesel growing in the community |

Biodiesel growing in the community

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunTom Dwyer, Senior Equipment Mechanic for the Town of Truckee measures smoke opacity on a town vehicle on Thursday. The Town of Truckee is testing biodiesel emissions in five of its vehicles and equipment to determine if it will make the change to the new fuel.

Biodiesel is catching on with local drivers, businesses, and maybe even local government.

The town is testing biodiesel in fleet vehicles and equipment, Northstar-at-Tahoe is using a biodiesel blend as well as selling it, and local businesses from landscapers to construction companies are fueling up with the petroleum alternative.

Solar Wind Works of Truckee has also been using biodiesel blends since 2002.

For some biodiesel users, like Solar Wind Works owner Chris Worcester, the choice has its grounding in geopolitics.

“A lot less people are dying over french fries than oil,” said Worcester.

He said he had been using biodiesel in a Volkswagen Jetta TDI, a Ford F350, and a tractor, in blends anywhere from 5 percent to 70 percent biodiesel.

“I have no complaints, in the winter we’re not running more than 20 to 50 percent, but as long as it’s blended it’s not an issue,” Worcester said.

Tal Fletcher, owner of Mountain Cab, Squaw Valley Taxi, and Truckee Taxi, said that aside from the obvious environmental reasons for running biodiesel, he uses it two of his cabs because “the car actually prefers it.”

“My understanding is that the original diesel engine was designed to run on vegetable oil,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher has been running 100 percent biodiesel in the summer, and anywhere from 20 to 50 percent in colder weather, in a Ford Excursion and a Ford F350 pickup truck since last spring.

When asked about maintenance and performance concerns, he said he had been getting one to one and a half miles per gallon better than normal diesel, it had cleaned out the fueling systems, and better lubricated the engines.

Between the two vehicles Fletcher has gone about 40,000 miles on biodiesel, and had nothing but good things to say.

“It’s better for the car, it supports American farmers, I don’t see a good reason for anybody with a diesel engine not to use it,” Fletcher said.

The Northstar-at-Tahoe resort has been using biodiesel and made it available to the public for three years, said Jessica VanPernis, the communications supervisor for Northstar.

“In addition to selling it to the public, Northstar Resort uses it in 100 percent of our diesel-powered equipment, which includes the majority of our shuttle buses and snow removal equipment,” VanPernis said.

She said that they did use biodiesel in the winter, but stick to the 10 percent blend because of concerns about fuel viscosity (how thick the fuel becomes) in colder temperatures.

Bret Albert, the fleet manager for the Town of Truckee, said that the town has been conducting a three-month trial using 10 percent biodiesel in five pieces of equipment over the summer.

Running “opacity tests,” a baseline with normal diesel was established at the beginning of the summer, and a final test will be run in October, Albert said.

Albert expected results the second week in October, but was optimistic about the results.

“We’ve run a mid-line test showing promising numbers,” Albert said.

He said they had been testing on a variety of equipment including a dump truck, backhoe, woodchipper, sweeper, and a loader.

What happens after the final results are in is up to the Truckee Town Council, but Albert said that there were about 15 to 20 pieces of equipment that could potentially run on biodiesel.

For those interested in using biodiesel, call Ronnie Colby with Truckee Biofuels at 412 2617; they offer 100 percent biodiesel now, and will offer 20 percent in the winter, which Colby said should not coagulate in colder temperatures. He said prices are competitive with normal, petroleum-based diesel.

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