Construction begins on California landfill gas-to-energy project

By County of Orange and OC Waste & Recycling | January 26, 2015

Board Chairman and Orange County 3rd District Supervisor Todd Spitzer joined with area government and business officials on Jan. 22 to present details on the environmental and economic benefits to be gained from a renewable green energy plant at a county landfill.

The planned landfill gas-to-electricity plant at the Frank R. Bowerman landfill northeast of Irvine, California, will power local homes and businesses, create construction and operational jobs and generate millions in royalties for the county government system.

“This project makes sense for the OC in so many important ways,” said Spitzer, who represents the 3rd District where the landfill is located.  “It represents a win-win for the environment and the economy — and shows that the County of Orange is following smart and resourceful policies regarding its public landfills.”

Spitzer made his remarks during the formal groundbreaking ceremony for the $60 million plant, a state-of-the-art facility to be built on the 725-acre landfill that is one of the largest on the West Coast.  The project—to be financed by Caterpillar Financial Services and built and operated by Bowerman Power, a subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based Montauk Energy—was championed by Spitzer. It won approval from the full Board of Supervisors in October after a previous agreement for the facility was revised and updated.

At the event, Spitzer, Bowerman/Montauk executives and other officials listed the many benefits to be gained by the plant, which will be completed and operational by early 2016.

The plant will be a processing and power unit that captures landfill gas created by the millions of tons of waste buried at Bowerman. The gas, a natural byproduct of solid waste decomposition, contains high amounts of methane, which is a prevalent greenhouse gas.

The gas will be converted to an estimated 160,000 MWh of electricity, which is sufficient to serve about 18,500 homes.  The electricity will be sold to Anaheim Public Utility to power residences, schools and businesses in that city.

The plant’s Caterpillar reciprocating engines will feature gas clean-up and emissions reduction technologies that will meet all local-state-federal air quality requirements.  Thus, the project overall will have very minimal environmental impacts or detriments.

The electricity will be sold under a long-term (20 year) agreement with the City of Anaheim through its contract provider, Anaheim Public Utilities.

The average annual royalty payment to Orange County is projected at $1.62 million, which over the 20-year agreement will total an estimated $32 million.

An estimated $1 million in annual costs for plant operation and maintenance services will be paid for by Montauk.

Sixty construction jobs will be generated along with the local purchase of various building materials and services. In addition, a total of seven full-time employees will be hired by Bowerman for plant operations.

The Bowerman plant will be the county’s fourth gas-to-energy facility. The other three are at the Olinda and Prima Deshecha active landfills near Brea and San Juan Capistrano, respectively, and the Coyote Canyon closed landfill in Newport Beach.

Altogether, the four facilities will produce 400,000 MWh of electricity annually, enough to power more than 50,000 homes, which represents a population equivalent to the city of Costa Mesa.

Dave Herrman, CEO of Montauk Energy, said the corporation, as an experienced developer of landfill gas-to-energy projects, will be moving quickly to complete the construction of the 113,000-square foot facility. The plant will feature Caterpillar reciprocating engines that have state-of-the-art gas clean-up and emissions reduction technologies that will meet all local-state-federal air quality requirements.