The Golf Club at Terra Lago

The subtle smell of french fries permeates the air around North Ranch Country Club.

The smell doesn’t come from the club’s kitchen, but rather from some of the tractors and other machinery being used to take care of the Thousand Oaks-based golf course and its surroundings.

Wanting to do its part to promote a cleaner environment now and in the future, North Ranch has started using biodiesel, a biodegradable fuel that can be made from soybean and vegetable oils, to run about 20 percent of its maintenance vehicles. The goal is to eventually switch over completely to the biodegradable fuel, which the course produces by using the cooking oils from the club’s kitchen.

“We’re happy to be doing our part to help the environment,” said North Ranch shop manager Adam Baggerman, the man responsible for creating the biodegradable fuel being used at the club.

About 10 months ago Rich Wagner, director of agronomy at North Ranch, approached Baggerman with an idea.

Wagner has a neighbor who produces his own crude vegetable oil in his garage, which he uses to power the diesel engine in his Mercedes. After seeing his neighbor’s system, Wagner talked with Baggerman about the possibility of doing something similar at North Ranch.

Baggerman took the idea and ran with it. He went online and discovered that for as little as $800, it is possible to own a system that will turn vegetable oils into fuel. Wagner gave him the go-ahead to purchase a system. And now, each week, Baggerman gets barrels of used cooking oil from the kitchen and then brews up a batch of fuel.

“When you burn something from plants, the CO2 goes back into the air in a natural cycle,” Baggerman said. “Compare that with regular diesel, where the emissions hurt the environment. This is safe for the environment and people, and my tractors are running better because the fuel provides more lubrication.”

--By Bob Buttitta, from FORE Magazine, September/October 2009