2011-12-19 "Proposed plant at Potrero Hills would connect energy to PG&E grid" by Melissa Murphy from the "The Vacaville Reporter"
Potrero Hills landfill in Suisun City is more than just huge mounds of trash. It sits on a renewable resource that has hardly been tapped -- yet.
Currently, 75 wells drilled deep into the heap of decomposing trash siphon off the gas produced by the rotting garbage, pulling it out like a vacuum, so it can be burned.
The process allows the dump to emit fewer greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but there is a better solution said Potrero Hills District Manager Jim Dunbar.
"We're doing the right thing by burning it," Dunbar said. "But we want to do the better thing and turn it into power."
The landfill is teaming up with DTE Biomass Energy Inc. to reuse the landfill gas. Instead of burning it as a flare, the plan is to send the gas through a pipeline to a power generation plant on site.
DTE is earning permits to build the plant which would connect the energy to the Pacific Gas & Electric grid.
The $20 million project, once approved, will sit on the landfill site and produce 9.6 megawatts of renewable power, enough to power 6,000 homes.
Just as important, DTE officials said, the project will create jobs and bring tax revenue to Solano County.
"It's a good addition to the area," said Lou Wilkinson, vice president of business development for DTE Biomass Energy Inc. "It's a win-win for everyone."
He said using the landfill gas is a "significant" advantage to using other popular renewable sources for energy.
Unlike solar or wind energy, gas produced from the landfill is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Wilkinson described the renewable resource produced at the landfill as a "use it or lose it" opportunity. Right now, Potrero Hills isn't taking advantage of the resource, he said.
The reason for picking Potrero Hills to start a new project, Wilkinson, is its established relationship with the corporate office of Waste Connections Inc. and Solano County.
"Solano County is a great place to do business," he said. "Potrero Hills is a good fit for a gas to energy project."
He added that the proposed project is very economical and very cost competitive with other options.
DTE Biomass Inc. has made a commitment to invest $1 billion in energy nationwide and has managed gas and electric utility businesses in more than 20 states for more than 25 years.
"We want people to know that they can trust us because we're a company that has the funds to do this," Wilkinson said.
Still, he said, the Potrero Hills project is a big one for the company.
DTE is obtaining an interconnect permit from PG&E and an air permit from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The interconnect permit will ensure that DTE is using the right equipment and that it is correctly installed and delivered in a safe way to PG&E and then to customers. Electricity moved to the PG&E grid will be sold by DTE. The company expects to be up and running at the end of 2013.