San Luis Obispo County, the Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA), Oasis Design Associates and San Luis Garbage recently held a groundbreaking for a “Kompogas” Anaerobic Digestion Plant.
The facility will turn organic waste into energy and has been slated for the site on Santa Fe Road for almost 2 years, with a minor delay in approval coming after an appeal from nearby property owners in August 2016.
The SLO County Board of Supervisors, the members of which also sit on the IWMA board, unanimously approved the plant.
In preparation for the project, last year IWMA instituted changes to the way they handle food waste versus other trash. A food scrap pail was distributed to more than 50,000 County residents, with the contents to be added to green waste pick up and sorted out of the normal land-fill waste stream.
Standard green waste, from lawn clippings and the like, can be used as mulch at collection facilities or, as with the new plant, placed in a digester to produce, and separate, methane for burning in an electrical generator.
Last year, Patrick Fenton, Waste Connections’ district manager, was quoted in local media as saying the process could yield power for around 700 homes in the area.
The company has an agreement with the local power provider, and operator of the grid, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG &E).
The agreements and cooperation making the plant possible are quite international in origin, with Swiss, American and Japanese-owned companies cooperating to bring the technology to the Central Coast.
The financing agreement for the cutting edge technology was only recently completed. On March 23, Japan Bank for International Cooperation signed the financing agreement for the plant, as the main financer, marking the first Kompogas project in the U.S.
The dry anaerobic digestion plant is also the first under the Kompogas brand name for Hitachi Zosen Inova (HZI) in the U.S. The arrangements have led to an alphabet soup of corporate sponsors with collaboration between HZI USA, HZI Zurich, and the parent company, Hitachi Zosen Corporation of Osaka, Japan.
That’s led SLO locals to refer to the plant as the Hitachi or Inova plant.
“It’s Swiss technology,” said SLO County Dist. 3 Supervisor, Adam Hill, whose district the site is in. “Our folks went over there and saw their operations first hand. This tech is heavily used through out Europe.”
Indeed, in 2016 Sweden gained international notoriety as one of the few nations to become a routine net importer of garbage to keep their processing plants running. In addition to electrical production, the Swedes use the technology to heat their cities indoors through piping.
SLO may not need the heat, but said Sup. Hill, “it’s such a cool project. I think most people here are for ‘green’ energy. It should be a real positive for the community.”
In addition to the residential compost separation, two additional garbage trucks have been ordered for dedicated pick up of food waste at restaurants.
As regards possible objections, Sup. Hill added, “That is an industrial area so [normal operations] shouldn’t be an issue. But the whole point of an anaerobic digester is that you need a sealed system to operate. It shouldn’t smell that much.”
By Camas Frank