Ethanol plant digester to send 5 MW to California grid

By Anna Simet | May 25, 2016

Not only does Tulare County, California-based Calgren Renewable Fuels LLC manufacture renewable transportation fuel and utilize renewable energy to power its operations, but starting next month, the plant will also send renewable electricity to the grid.

Several years ago, the 55-MMgy ethanol plant partnered to construct the now-adjacent Pixley Biogas LLC facility, a two-stage, mixed plug-flow anaerobic digester paired with a combined-heat-and-power plant. The project was first conceived in 2009, and after a long development process met with arduous permitting challenges, construction began in early 2014. The project was complete the following September, with full operations beginning in February 2015. Built with the help of a $4.6 million California Energy Commission grant and designed by DVO Inc. of Chilton, Wisconsin, the digester takes in manure from nearby dairy operation Four J Farms.

In total, the CHP plant can produce up to 11 MW, and has possessed power supply capabilities beyond self-sufficiency from the beginning, according to Calgren Renewable Fuels President Lyle Schlyer. “Calgren has always had excess cogeneration power to sell to the grid, but getting interconnected so that we can do so has taken forever,” he said, referring to state regulatory issues.

Now, Calgren will sell excess power to utility Southern California Edison. “We think we are finally there,” Schlyer said. “Calgren expects to routinely export about 5 MW, beginning in June.”