Ener-Core system to be installed at Santiago Canyon Landfill

By Ener-Core | May 05, 2015

Ener-Core’s 250 kW Powerstation EC250 will be installed at the closed Santiago Canyon Landfill in Orange County, California, and will allow Orange County Waste & Recycling to generate clean electricity from a gas that is currently being flared. The installation is part of a renewable energy project made possible by the California Energy Commission’s award of $1.5 million to the University of California, Irvine’s Advanced Power & Energy Program in January 2015. The project is consistent with APEP’s mission to foster strategic alliances to facilitate the development and deployment of environmentally sensitive, sustainable power generation and energy conversion.

The project was approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors. The California Energy Commission awarded the $1.5 million research grant to APEP in January. The partnership’s task under the grant is to install and test a 250 kW ultra-low emissions power plant at Santiago Canyon Landfill. As part of the partnership, Ener-Core will receive approximately $900,000 to build and install the EC250 Powerstation, and the power plant will use landfill gas created from solid waste decomposition to produce electricity for site operations, which, in turn, will lower the county’s utility bill. Until now, the landfill gas at Santiago Canyon has been flared because it could not be used to fuel traditional power-generation technologies.

The aim of the project—a partnership between Ener-Core, the County of Orange and APEP—is to demonstrate the feasibility of converting low-quality landfill gas from a closed landfill into clean energy under field conditions. According to data from the Landfill Methane Outreach Program of the U.S. EPA, at least 50 percent of the landfills in the U.S. are already at full capacity and hence closed. When landfills close, they typically continue to emit harmful greenhouse gases for as long as 50 to 70 years after closure. However, the quality of these gases typically falls drastically after a landfill has been closed, and hence it has historically not been feasible to generate energy from a landfill after closure. It’s for this reason that most inactive landfills elect to flare (burn) the gas emissions, rather than use them to generate energy.

The first objective of this project is to demonstrate that the Ener-Core Powerstation can reliably generate clean energy from the low-quality gases of a landfill long after the landfill has been closed. The site selected for this installation, the Santiago Canyon Landfill, has been inactive since 1996. While Ener-Core’s technology has seen demonstrated success converting waste gas at an inactive landfill in Europe, this will be the company’s first installation on a closed landfill in California.

An additional objective of the project is to meet or exceed emission destruction efficiency and validate reliability targets as defined within project specifications over a 12-month period. The project is expected to be operational by summer 2017 and all demonstration requirements must be met no later than May 31, 2019. If the initiative proves successful, Ener-Core’s technology could be retained for long-term operation at the landfill, as well as additional landfills and industries in California, according to Orange County Waste & Recycling. Once the system is fully operational, Orange County Waste & Recycling anticipates cost savings of $240,000 per year. The project will provide applied research opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students at APEP who will develop and execute performance validation test plans to critically assess the project performance against its stated goals of generating 2 GW per hour of electricity and reduce NOx emissions by nearly 1 ton per year versus the “business-as-usual case.”

“Advanced technologies that utilize bio resources are a major step to reaching environmental and national goals,” said Professor Vince McDonell, associate director of APEP. “We are pleased to lead the strategic alliance associated with this major demonstration.”

“Creating clean energy power from landfill gas is a smart investment that helps the environment and advances science and engineering,” said Board Chairman Todd Spitzer, who has championed renewable energy projects, including the new power plant being built at the County’s Frank R. Bowerman Landfill east of Irvine. “Advancing important technology that helps the environment and potentially generates revenue is the best way for Orange County to do business as a leader in clean energy projects.”

Alain Castro, CEO of Ener-Core, said, “Orange County, and Orange County Waste & Recycling, are recognized innovators in energy technology and environmental awareness, and we are honored to be a partner on this important project. Historically, converting low-quality gas to energy at closed landfills has not been feasible due to the poor quality of the gases that are emitted, and hence older landfills typically flare (burn) their gas emissions rather than use them productively. Ener-Core has a demonstrated history of converting waste gases to clean energy on a variety of industrial platforms, including landfills. We currently have an Ener-Core Powerstation deployed at a landfill site in the Netherlands, which has performed with great results, and we are confident our technology will perform similarly at this new site. Our solution offers an economically attractive and technically reliable solution for generating clean power from well over 1,000 closed landfills across the U.S., such that we can tackle a real environmental problem while at the same time contributing to the power needs of the future. Creating clean energy from landfill gas is a smart investment that helps the environment and advances science and engineering.”