Converting Landfill Gas into Electricity

Date: February 13, 2001
To: Board of Supervisors
Subject: CONVERTING LANDFILL GAS INTO ELECTRICITY

Summary:
The County owns and operates 10 landfill gas control systems at various inactive landfill sites. As a result of my inquiries on this issue, Department of Public Works Solid Waste Management staff initiated a study to evaluate the feasibility of electrical power generation at eight landfill gas control systems. The study identified Jamacha Landfill in the community of Rancho San Diego as having the greatest potential for a successful project.

Total capital outlay for this project is estimated to be approximately $525,000. Sufficient funding for this project is available in the Solid Waste Management budget.

The project will involve installation of micro-turbines on the existing landfill gas control system at Jamacha Landfill, along with hardware necessary to transfer the resulting electricity to a buyer. The study determined revenue would be sufficient to recoup the capital outlay within five to six years.

The California Energy Commission offers grant monies under AB 970 for renewable energy development to augment peak electricity supply. This is a request for approval of submission and acceptance of a grant for installation of micro-turbines at the Jamacha Landfill to convert landfill gas (methane) into electrical power. The grant would provide $75,000 to install micro-turbines to produce the amount of electrical power required under the grant program.

Recommendations:
SUPERVISOR DIANNE JACOB: 
1. Find pursuant to Section 15301 of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines, requested action is not subject to CEQA review as it involves minor alteration of existing facilities with no expansion of an existing use, and there is no possibility it may have a significant effect on the environment.

2. Adopt a Resolution entitled Resolution of the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors for California Energy Commission Innovative Efficiency and Renewables Peak Reduction Program, and authorize the Clerk of the Board to sign the Resolution on behalf of the Board of Supervisors.

3. Authorize the Director, Department of Public Works or his designee, as agent of the County to conduct negotiations and submit all documents including, but not limited to applications, contracts, payment requests, agreements and amendments, which may be necessary to secure grant funds.

Fiscal Impact:
Funds for this proposal are not budgeted, but are available in the Solid Waste Management budget due to savings achieved on other projects. Funding sources are Innovative Efficiency and Renewables Peak Reduction Program grant ($75,000) to offset cost of installation of micro-turbines at Jamacha Landfill, and Solid Waste Environmental Trust Fund ($450,000) for a total one time cost of $525,000. Annual costs will be fully offset by revenue, and no additional staff years will be required.

BACKGROUND:
Combustion turbines have been used on large landfill gas electric power projects for more than 15 years. A private company currently operates one such application at the County's San Marcos Landfill. Most County inactive landfill sites are too small to support a similar project.

Recently, however, micro-turbines have been developed and tested making conversion feasible at other County sites. In today's marketplace, with power shortages and soaring electrical costs, small-scale power development is increasingly cost-effective.

The County owns and operates 10 landfill gas control systems at various inactive landfill sites. On October 24, 2000, Department of Public Works Solid Waste Management staff initiated a study to evaluate the feasibility of electrical power generation at eight landfill gas control systems. Results of the study identified Jamacha Landfill as having the greatest potential for a successful project. Two inactive landfills were not considered because the County does not own the gas rights. Five sites were too small to produce adequate gas to sustain a project. Remaining sites are considered marginal due to technical feasibility issues, which may be addressed in the future.

The Jamacha turbine is expected to produce up to 300 kilowatts (kw) per hour, enough to provide electrical power for up to 300 San Diego homes, which on average utilize one kw per hour. In February 2000, Power Exchange pricing for electrical power was 3 1/2 cents per kilowatt-hour, but has since risen to 26 cents. Assuming a conservative rate for electricity of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, gross annual revenue would be approximately $130,000. An estimated $60,000 of this revenue would be spent on internal consumption and operation and maintenance of the system, including replacement and repair of equipment. Net cash flow would be approximately $70,000 annually, sufficient to recoup the capital outlay within six years.

The California Energy Commission is offering grant opportunities in the Innovative Efficiency and Renewables Peak Reduction Program for projects that reduce or augment peak electric supply. On December 6, 2000, the program was expanded to include small (250kw-per-hour minimum) projects. The project at Jamacha fulfills program requirements. The grant will offset approximately 16% of total project cost.

Project timeline
Micro-turbines will be connected to the landfill gas control system, placed inside the existing flare station structure and connected to the power grid through the existing meter. County Counsel has determined the project can be completed under current contract for operation and maintenance of the landfill gas control systems. Staff has applied to the Air Pollution Control District to modify its permit for the Jamacha Landfill. It is anticipated the installation will be completed by June 1, 2001.

Environmental Statement
Action requested is authorization to submit and accept a grant for installing micro-turbines at Jamacha Landfill. Installation of micro-turbines is exempt from CEQA review according to 15301 of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines because it involves no expansion of an existing use, and there is no possibility it may have a significant effect on the environment.

Respectfully Submitted,

DIANNE JACOB
Supervisor, Second District