Electricity provider partners with waste company in biogas plant

09/14/2017

Marin County’s nonprofit public electricity provider, MCE, and Waste Management are cutting the ribbon this month on a collaborative clean energy project located at Redwood Landfill in Novato. The new plant, a $14.5 million endeavor, uses the methane gas produced by Marin and Sonoma Counties’ waste to power two engines that generate 3.9 megawatts of electricity around the clock, providing enough electricity to serve around 5,000 homes. It is the nonprofit’s largest local clean energy project to date, though it will provide for a relatively small percentage of MCE’s service area, which is spread between Marin and Napa Counties and the cities of Richmond, Benicia, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Walnut Creek and Lafayette, for a total of 255,000 customers. According to Alex DiGiorgio, deputy director of community development, a minimum of 50 percent of the energy delivered to customers comes from renewable sources, though people can also opt in to a 100 percent renewable energy program for $5 extra per month or a solar program for $35 extra. Fifty percent of proceeds from the deep green program go to the development of local renewable energy projects. In the past, the nonprofit has been criticized over its purchase of credits from outside energy sources, but Mr. DiGiorgio said that today, a maximum of only 3 percent of its energy comes from credits. “We have always been invested in developing local clean energy sources, though it is that now these projects are finally coming online,” he said. A solar farm in Novato was finished this spring and a 10.5 megawatt solar project is in the works in Richmond. For the Redwood plant, MCE. committed to buying the energy, while Waste Management fronted the funding.  “At most landfills in the country, methane gas, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, gets burned,” Mr. DiGiorgio said. “My whole life I’ve driven by landfills and seen these flares, which always seemed so wasteful, given that in other parts of the country there is fracking going on, where methane is being extracted.”