Glendale Water & Power has been working on a Biogas generation project to be built at Scholl Canyon. They want to spend $35 million on landfill gas (LFG) treatment equipment that cleans up the LFG and feeds into four reciprocating GE Jenbacher Model J 620 GS-16 engines. This will create onsite emissions and noise 24/7.
The emissions from these engines is significantly worse than other methods of converting the LFG to electricity. GWP could instead clean up the gas to pipeline quality and burn it in the much more efficient turbines or convert it directly to energy in a fuel cell.
GWP claims that they have looked into alternatives to burning the LFG in those reciprocating engines but it’s clear that they have not. For example, at the recent Glendale Planning Commission meeting, GWP’s subject expert testified that “there is no commercially available technology” to clean up this gas to pipeline quality.
This is simply untrue. A company called Morrow Renewables has built at least five Landfill gas to pipeline stations on landfills around the country. I’m certain that they and their competitors would be happy to bid on a project like this if they were given the chance. I compared their costs for similar sized projects and it looks like they could build such a plant for roughly $20 million.
Here are the benefits of the LFG to Pipeline from their website:
“Shorter development time. Morrow Renewables can build a facility within 9 months of a notice to proceed, compared to over 2 years for a power project.
Delivering the gas into a nearby pipeline for distribution so that electric generation can be maximized off-site, utilizing a high efficiency combined cycle power plant.
Lower noise levels and emissions than an electric generation plant, thereby creating greater community support.
Less permit requirements due to negligible air emissions.”
That is exactly what the community wants – less emissions and less noise.
Glendale Water & Power decided on this plan because they want to continue generating power from the LFG as it makes up 25% of their Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) credits. When GWP tears down the old Grayson power plant where the LFG is currently being burned they will lose those RPS credits unless they are able to turn it into electricity elsewhere.
GWP argues that they if they clean up the gas to pipeline quality, they would lose the RPS credit for this gas. This is not true. According to the RPS Eligibility Guidebook (9th Edition) they could keep the renewable credits by either burning the cleaned LFG at Grayson via the existing Scholl to Grayson pipeline, by burning it at Grayson via injecting it into SoCalGas’s “Common Carrier Pipeline”, or they could convert the LFG directly into electricity using near zero pollution fuel cells like the ones made by BloomEnergy.
Unfortunately, GWP is pursuing approval of this project under the Mitigated Negative Declaration designation that specifically allows them to *not* look at other options.
In March, the Glendale Planning Commission rejected GWP’s proposal and asked them to do a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) specifically because it would include alternatives. GWP is appealing the decision on the grounds that regardless what the commission says, GWP is not required to look at alternatives. This appeal will go before the council soon.
From the outside, it seems like the problem stems from bad advice GWP received during the creation of their Integrated Resource Plan. Siemens, who wrote the IRP, advised GWP to burn the LFG at the landfill in reciprocating engines. So, GWP went to market asking for solutions to burn LFG at the landfill with reciprocating engines. They should have asked the market to provide solutions to their LFG and RPS problem. An more open ended ask would have gotten more creative solutions in addition to the reciprocating engine solution. Now, instead of correcting their mistake, they are doubling down and refusing to even pursue alternatives unless forced to by the council.
GWP behaves like an investor owned utility in their relationship with the people of Glendale – doing what best suits GWP rather than what best suits the people of Glendale.