26 July 2006 -- With summer temperatures soaring throughout California and leading to stress on the state's power suppliers, one Bay Area company is offering an alternative way to help keep local residents cool. Waste Management's Altamont Landfill, near Livermore, and Guadalupe Landfill, near San Jose, are currently generating enough clean energy to power 8,500 Bay Area homes.
The approximately 8 MW, which are produced by capturing landfill methane gas, a natural by-product of decomposing garbage, are fed directly to the local power grid. Methane gas is captured in a series of wells throughout the landfill, which is then fed into a natural gas turbine where it is converted into electricity.
Since 1989, the Altamont Landfill has operated landfill gas-to-energy generators that transform methane gas into electricity. Pacific Gas and Electric contracts with the landfill to buy the energy, reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.
Altamont Landfill's gas-to-energy facility generates electricity that significantly lowers emissions and is one of the largest and cleanest burning facilities of its kind in the world. As the volume of material at the landfill increases, the amount of available methane will also increase, augmenting the potential for more green power.
Typically, landfills simply "flare" off excess methane gas generated by landfill decomposition. According to the company, this process only wastes the potential energy produced by landfills.
The two power plants, located at Waste Management's Bay Area landfills, are the first of their kind in the Bay Area. There are also plans to add another turbine at the company's Redwood Landfill outside Novato.