Los Angeles planning new waste-to-energy plant

By Anna Austin | June 22, 2011

Although it’s still early in the planning process, Los Angeles has made a significant step forward in the development of a new waste-to-energy facility. The city recently announced it has begun contract negotiations with Rye, N.Y.-based Green Conversion Systems to design and build the plant.

For the past four years, the city has been conducting an extensive search to evaluate different waste conversion technologies and reviewed 13 different proposals. Evaluated vendors offer a variety of solutions including pyrolysis, gasification, plasma arc, anaerobic digestion and Green Conversion Systems’ Advanced Thermal Recycling (ATR) system.

Based upon the GCS technology, the facility would be capable of processing nearly 1,100 tons per day of post-recycled residential waste using a two-step system of preprocessing and advanced thermal recycling. During preprocessing, all waste entering the facility is sorted to remove recyclable materials such as plastics, metals and paper. The nonrecyclable waste is then sent to the ATR system, which converts 99 percent of it into electricity—enough to power more than 6,000 homes—and marketable byproducts.

The ATR technology has been commonly used in Europe for the past two decades. During the summer of 2008, a Los Angeles city delegation visited several reference sites in Europe to evaluate and determine the applicability of the technology, according to the L.A. Department of Public Works.

About 3,300 tons of post-source separated municipal solid waste is collected from Los Angeles city residents each day. Most is landfilled, with about 1 percent being turned into electricity at the Southeast Resource Recovery Facility in Long Beach, Calif., a 36-megawatt waste-to-energy facility operated by Covanta Energy Corp.

Los Angeles has a goal of zero waste, called RENEW LA, and the new plant is part of the initiative. The city has six waste sheds total, and the plan includes building a conversion technology facility in each one, as well as an additional facility in the region, over the next 20 years.

GCS will now come back to the city with a proposal, said Los Angeles Department of Public Works Public Affairs Director Cora Jackson-Fossett. A site for the facility has not yet been determined, she added, and likely won’t be for a year or two. Where it will be located will be based upon an external community input process. “We have a very involved, environmentally conscious community here,” she said.