San Jose advances waste-to-biogas facility plans

By Anna Austin
The city of San Jose, Calif., recently announced it had authorized the city manager to negotiate and execute a memorandum of understanding to develop guidelines and potential lease terms for the development of an organic-waste-to-energy biogas facility.

The facility, which would be built on 40 acres near the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant, would process up to 150,000 tons of food and yard waste per year that would otherwise be sent to landfills.

The facility will be constructed and operated by Zanker Road Biogas. Upon successful negotiations with the city, a lease will be issued to Zero Waste Energy Development Co. Inc., a partnership between GreenWaste Recovery and sister company Zanker Road Resource Management.

GreenWaste owns and operates a material recovery facility that would provide feedstock to the new plant. ZRRM also owns and operates a material processing facility, a resource recovery facility and landfill, as well as the second-largest composting plant in California.

Renewable power plant builder and operator Harvest Power Inc. will provide project development capabilities.

A San Jose public relations representative said that although all of the existing anaerobic digestion processes in the U.S agricultural and wastewater industries process wet waste, the proposed project would use dry fermentation technology because it can handle hard-to-divert materials such as food waste, which can contain as much as 50 percent total solids; typical dairy and wastewater digestion feedstocks are wetter, ranging from 8 percent to 15 percent solids.

BEKON Energy Technologies will supply the dry fermentation anaerobic digestion technology, which the company has previously installed in 12 facilities in Germany and Italy.

According to GreenWaste President Richard Christina, the project will be developed in three phases, each designed to increase capacity by 50,000 tons per year. The biogas
produced will generate electricity for use at the water pollution control plant, or be sold back into the regional electrical utility power grid.

An estimated 50 to 60 jobs will be created when the biogas facility is fully operational; completion is anticipated in 2011.

This project will bring San Jose closer to its goal of being 100 percent energy independent. In October 2007, the San Jose City Council adopted "Green Vision," a 15-year clean technology plan which includes generating 100 percent of the city's electrical needs from renewable sources and diverting 100 percent of its landfill wastes to clean energy conversion. To learn more, visit