San Diego Project Taps New England Fuel Cell Company to Generate Energy From Waste Methane Gas
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generate renewable energy,” Washom says. “The key is this CPUC ruling. It was visionary on their part. By providing this ATM accounting, you can put a supplier with a buyer anywhere in the Western U.S.”
The additional power generating capacity means that the San Diego UC campus, which has about 28,000 students and another 28,000 faculty and staff, will be generating about 92 percent of its own power needs, Washom says.
The arrangement apparently is promising enough that San Diego Gas & Electric and its sister utility, the Southern California Gas Co. have asked the CPUC for authorization to develop, own, operate and maintain bioenergy production and gas conditioning facilities. The utilities, which are both owned and operated by San Diego-based Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE) are seeking regulatory permission to process gas from organic waste at water treatment plants, farms, and other operations into gas suitable for power production or injection into utility pipelines.
The Point Loma treatment plant is the city’s largest, and treats roughly 175 million gallons of wastewater per day generated in a 450-square mile area by more than 2.2 million residents. By stopping the gas flaring and instead generating electricity from the waste, city officials estimate the project will eliminate more than 68,000 pounds of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and other pollutants annually.
The project, which is scheduled for completion by next summer, is expected to be the largest combination of fuel cells in a single project in the U.S., according to FuelCell Energy. In addition to UCSD’s 2.8 megawatt facility, which will generate 8 percent of the university’s energy needs, the company will install a 300 kilowatt fuel cell at the Point Loma treatment plant and a 1.4 megawatt plant at the South Bay plant.
“It’s a very exciting project,” according to Jacques Chirazi, cleantech program manager for the City of San Diego. The municipality estimates the project will generate $2.6 million in new revenue over the next decade, and the city expects to save an additional $780,000 in reduced electricity cost. “It looks like it has a better economic payback period than most renewable projects,” Chirazi says.
The project financing includes bonds issued by the California Pollution Control Authority, equity investments and debt from New Energy Capital and North Sky Capital CleanTech Alliance, grants from the California Self-Generation Incentive Program, and U.S. Treasury investment tax credits. U.S. Bancorp provided tax credit financing.