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Anaerobic digester

Chicago Social Enterprise Builds Sustainable Energy Apparatus with CDFI Support

Financial and Social Impact

  • Incubator with space for more than 20 businesses, with approximately half of these minority- or woman-owned and many employing staff who are hard-to-employ (such as disabled veterans, those with criminal records, refugees, and housing-insecure individuals)
  • Approximately 95 full-time equivalent jobs at The Plant created or retained (as of December 2019)

Client: Bubbly Dynamics 
Client location: Chicago, IL 
CDFI: Chicago Community Loan Fund 
CDFI service area: Illinois 
CDFI services provided: Financing, with support from the OFN Renewable and Energy Efficiency Financing Grant Program

Bubbly Dynamics is the owner and operator of The Plant, an abandoned Chicago meatpacking plant converted into a net-zero energy vertical farm and research operation housing a collaborative community of local, healthy food enterprisesIn 2011, Bubbly embarked on the purchase and installation of an anaerobic digester and combined heat and power system at The Plant. In need of financing for the project, they turned to Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF).

Bubbly initially received a $540,000 CCLF loan to begin installing the apparatus, which produces methane by breaking down food waste. The methane is then burned as fuel for heat, electricity, and dry waste (digestate), all of which are recycled and reused. Facing unexpected hurdles in the installation process, Bubbly turned to CCLF again in 2019. CCLF provided a second loan to The Plant to complete the project, with support from the OFN Renewable and Energy Efficiency Financing Grant Program. 

As Bubbly works to finish off the anaerobic digester, they have also worked diligently to build out spaces and bring in new like-minded tenants to The Plant, with 17 unique enterprises currently, including a brewery, specialty ice maker, cheese shop, and bakery. Despite COVID-19, The Plant has not suffered any vacancies. Offering rent concessions, as well as online delivery and marketing support, Bubbly’s cooperative spirit has helped multiple businesses stay afloat through the pandemic.

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