Setting the Record Straight: Scholl Canyon Landfill Power Project and More
1. Why aren't you placing more emphasis on harnessing solar and wind power alternatives? Isn't it your goal to reduce harmful fossil fuel emissions?
The State mandated Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires utilities in California to use renewables to generate 33% of their overall electrical needs by 2020 and 50% by 2030 includes both wind and solar but also bio gas, hydro power and geo thermal energy.
While there are more solar facilities coming on line and more wind as well, there is nearly an equal amount of natural gas plants coming on line and to a great degree this is to complement or “smooth” the inconsistent nature of solar and wind (the sun doesn’t always shine nor the wind always blow). So while these projects certainly help in the effort, they do not result in complete elimination of fossil fuel.
The Scholl Canyon project as proposed would eliminate the need we now have to use natural gas to bolster the bio gas for the production process. Ultimately, a diverse power portfolio is what is best, and Glendale Water & Power has such diversity including wind, solar, geo thermal, hydro and bio gas and we are meeting all aspects of the State mandate.
2. In the past, city officials have stressed the importance of addressing proper methane disposal. But what about all the pollutants generated by the power plant? If methane is such a concern, why would you want to expand the landfill?
By law we are required to contain and collect the bio-gas that is generated naturally through the decomposition of the organic waste deposited at the landfill. The gas must then be destroyed most commonly by using a thermal process called flaring. This simply burns the gas in special equipment and sends the residual into the atmosphere. This is certainly not the best use of or disposal process for this bio gas.
In 1992, the City aimed to improve on this process by compressing the collected gas and then transmitting it via pressurized pipeline 5.5 miles to Grayson Power Plant where the low quality bio gas is blended with natural gas and used as boiler fuel to generate electricity. As a result, we avoid the flaring process and are able to claim some level of renewable energy credit for the partial use of the bio gas.
While the use of the bio gas at Grayson is an improvement over flaring it still generates higher level emissions at the plant, is corrosive to our power generating equipment, and does not allow us claim the full credit for the renewable energy component.
Therefore, we looked to develop a project that improved on those areas - the proposed re-powering of the Grayson Power Plant would enable us to accomplish that objective. By segregating the project, we are able to use specialized equipment at the source of the bio gas which reduces the overall emissions from what is created by using the gas at Grayson and thus directly reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, it gives us full Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) credit for the use of the bio gas to replace fossil fuel in the production of electricity for our customers and lowers the future cost of processing the gas at Grayson by nearly $40 million a cost savings that will benefit our rate payers. Not to mention this option eliminates the need for a pressurized gas line that traverses 5.5 miles through the City and in mainly residential areas.
The project will have emissions; however, overall there is a reduction in the emissions by developing separate projects and not burning the gas as we do now at Grayson. This will be borne out in the stringent permitting process we must go through with the South Coast Air Quality Management District and of course also reviewed as part of the draft environmental impact review that is currently underway. While it is not possible to completely eliminate emissions either at the landfill or at Grayson, by reducing the overall impact we improve the air quality for the entire City and beyond that to the local region.
3. City officials have consistently maintained the power plant proposal was developed independently from the landfill expansion proposal. How can this be true? Wouldn't both enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship?
The Scholl Bio Gas to Energy project in no way was developed or is dependent on the future expansion of the landfill. We have not taken that factor into consideration in designing, engineering or doing bio gas production analysis. It is based on the current permitted capacity and the gas production from that amount only.
While the landfill will produce gas long after the fill cycle has been completed again we only looked at the current capacity. As I mentioned to the City Council, dealing effectively with the bio gas that is produced at the landfill is something we must do regardless of the future of the site. Hypothetically, if the landfill were to close tomorrow I would still recommend we continue this project for all of benefits I have stated.
In regards to the financial motivation that might be present in developing this project, I can only tell you it is quite the opposite. While solid environmental stewardship and striving to improve the quality of the environment we live in is paramount, it often comes at a higher price. The use of traditional fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas can be cheaper however; the negative impact to the environment is much greater.
When seeking renewable and green alternatives, it is often times much more expensive although a good investment in our future. The Scholl Bio Gas to Energy project at an estimated $35 million to develop is no exception. While the project does produce cleaner electricity that can be sold that simply offsets the need to use fossil fuel produced energy that is much cheaper. Again, the idea is for the long term and the overall improvement of the environment.
To learn more about the Scholl Canyon Landfill Power Project, view the RFP here.
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