Making ‘home-grown green energy;' enough to serve 7,000 residencesNOVATO – The Redwood Landfill and Recycling Center will build a power plant in 2011 designed to generate seven megawatts of energy by recycling landfill gases produced by waste decomposition into electricity.

Groundbreaking is anticipated by the end of the second quarter for the new center to be located at 8950 Redwood Highway operated by Waste Management Corp.

Redwood Landfill’s management team is working with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the California Air Resources Board to obtain the necessary air quality permits for the facility, which could play an important role in Marin’s future energy supply – and lead to less reliance on foreign natural gas and fossil fuels.

A lawsuit had been filed by environmental groups to block expansion of the landfill, and this fall the Marin County Superior Court ruled to invalidate the environmental impact report for the expansion. The county and the landfill are appealing the ruling.

[caption id="attachment_27833" align="alignleft" width="288" caption="Collection pipes gather landfill gas and transfer it to the flare tower. With the new energy plant, such gases will be channeled to generators producing electricity."][/caption]

“We are moving forward on every aspect of this program and hope it does not get delayed,” said Jessica Jones, district manager of the Redwood Landfill and Recycling Center.

She said the landfill gas-to-electricity program mitigates against greenhouse gases, and the court, so far, has not stopped them from pursuing it.

“We would be very disappointed if the court was to keep us from implementing a plan that would benefit the environment and reduce greenhouse gases," said Ms. Jones.

Project team members are also working aggressively with PG&E engineers to interconnect the proposed power plant to the grid. PG&E has already completed load-balancing operations that will enable this new power source to flow back into its network.

Every megawatt of landfill gas-to-energy produces enough electricity to power approximately 1,000 homes. This new facility could produce power for an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 homes in Marin County (equivalent to energy from 40,000 to 50,000 barrels of oil).

A pin-cushion of deep wells with perforated pipes was placed throughout the landfill to collect methane, carbon dioxide and other particles that comprise landfill gas.   These gases are then burned in an on-site flare.

"While the flaring process destroys organic compounds, it doesn’t harness renewable energy," said Ms. Jones. "Soon we will be able to convert these gases into a good source of low-carbon fuel and home-grown green energy while also helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Energy from landfill gas can help the state meet its renewable portfolio standard goal of having 20 percent renewable power by 2017.

Five, 20-cylinder Caterpillar diesel engines, modified to run on natural gas and capable of producing up to 1.6 megawatts each, will be used to generate electrical power at the Redwood Landfill.

The idea of building this plant was conceived in 2003, but upgraded air quality regulations caused a delay in implementation until a new breed of clean engines became available.

Work resumed on this project two years ago with the development of advanced technology.

“We have provided safe, reliable and clean waste management services to the North Bay for almost 50 years, including the reuse or recycling of nearly 50 percent of all material brought to the site. Today we are responsible for one-third of all the recycling that occurs in Marin County,” Ms. Jones said.

In addition to the landfill gas-to-energy project, the Redwood Landfill and Recycling Center is pursuing an updated permit that will enable it to implement a variety of new programs designed to reflect Marin County residents’ growing concerns regarding waste, recycling and reuse.

Earlier this year the Redwood Landfill began composting residential food waste after approval was received following the successful completion of its demonstration program.

Management is working to obtain approval for commercial food waste processing in early 2011.

Other resource management options that may require additional permits include a recycling facility for construction and demolition debris, with capacity for up to 400 tons a day; an increased array of accepted recyclable materials for self-haul drive-up customers; and bins for recycled cardboard and various paper grades, glass, metal, plastic containers, other basic commodities and used oil and oil filters.

“Our commitment is to practice environmental stewardship by acting as a community partner in reducing and reusing waste along with protecting the natural beauty and ecological diversity of the Petaluma Marsh and the surrounding area,” Ms. Jones said.