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LA to Power Wastewater Treatment with Waste Biogas

Words by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment
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What do you get when you combine a form of renewable energy with a wastewater reclamation plant? You get a very environmentally friendly process, and that process will be in Los Angeles, the second most populous city in the U.S.

Constellation, subsidiary of Exelon Corporation and Los Angeles Sanitation, recently announced they broke ground on a 25-megawatt (MW) biogas fueled cogeneration plant. It will provide 100 percent of the steam and electricity needed to power LA Sanitation’s Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant.

Cogeneration, also called combined heat and power, is defined by the EPA as the “simultaneous production of electricity and heat from a single fuel source” and biogas is one of the sources.

The cogeneration plant is expected to generate more than 173 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year and supply up to 70,000 pounds per hour of steam. And it will do so by capturing methane from Hyperion’s sewage treatment process. The use of biogas as a power source is expected to avoid the release of about 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, equal to the emissions from over 21,000 passenger vehicles a year. It is slated to operate at the end of 2016.

“At LA Sanitation, we are committed to protecting public health and our environment,” said LA Sanitation Director, Enrique C. Zaldivar, P.E. “Keeping our commitment means continually improving and finding innovative new ways to meet the sustainability goals that Mayor Garcetti has set for the entire city. Today's groundbreaking brings us closer to fulfilling our pledge to the people of Los Angeles."  
The Hyperion plant is Los Angeles’ oldest and largest wastewater treatment facility and has operated since 1894. Hyperion produces an average of 650 wet tons per day (wtpd) of biosolids. Until 1989, the biosolids produced at the plant were dumped into the ocean and landfills.

It is one of four treatment and water reclamation plants LA Sanitation operates, serving over four million people in two service areas of over 600 square miles. The treatment plants remove pollutants from the city’s sewage, and combined the plants produce over 80 gallons of reclaimed water a day that can be used for industrial, landscape and recreational uses. They also produce biosolids that are used as fertilizers and soil amendments for agricultural and landscape uses.

Los Angeles' plan to be a sustainable city

The cogeneration plant fits into Los Angeles Mayor Eric Mayor Garcetti’s Sustainable City pLAn. Launched in April, it is the city’s first-ever sustainability plan. It contains short-term (2017) and long-term (2025 to 2035) goals in 14 categories. Some of its goals are environmental ones such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2025, 60 percent by 2035 and 80 percent by 2050.

One way the city plans to reduce its GHG emissions is through increasing the use of renewables. To that end, the city’s goal is for LA’s Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to get 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030. Solar power will be a large part of Los Angeles' renewable portfolio, which has already “become a leader in solar,” according to the Sustainable City pLAn. That is only natural considering that the city has over 250 days of sunshine a year and enough rooftop space for over 5,500 MW of solar power.

The city already has the most amount of solar power, in terms of installed capacity of MW, of any city in the nation. And Los Angeles is also already a leader in energy storage due to the LADWP Castaic Pumped-Storage Plant that provides over 1,500 MW of energy storage. In addition, the city has the largest solar feed-in tariff program in the U.S.

There is an old political saying that as California goes, so goes the nation. The entire nation would be smart to follow the plan of California's most populous city.

Photo: Kirk Crawford

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Read more stories by Gina-Marie Cheeseman