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Glendale Turns on the Gas From Landfill to Power Homes : Waste: Experts say methane-to-energy systems help the environment and can generate a profit for agencies.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

At the turn of a valve Friday, gas created by garbage rotting at a local landfill was used to generate enough electricity for 30,000 homes in Glendale.

It sounds like an environmentalist’s dream, but the process is becoming a reality for municipalities across the country.

Eight such systems are being used at landfills and power plants throughout Los Angeles County, according to sanitation officials.

The county’s landfill system is on the verge of a crisis as the capacity to hold solid waste diminishes.

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Diverting landfill gas toward power plants will do little to improve the condition of dumping grounds, officials with the Sanitary Districts of Los Angeles County say. But many agree that gas-to-energy systems are good for the environment and can sometimes generate a profit for participating agencies.

“It’s a win-win-win all the way around,” John Cosulich, a supervising engineer with the sanitation agency.

Methane and carbon dioxide gas naturally emitted by decomposing trash at the Scholl Canyon Landfill is collected, treated, compressed and dehydrated with equipment at the site of the $10-million project in Glendale. It is transported to the city’s power plant 5 1/2 miles away through an underground pipeline.

When it reaches the Grayson Power Plant, the gas is blended with more methane and used to fuel the boilers that produce electrical power.

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On Friday, Glendale Mayor Eileen Givens smashed a champagne bottle against an above-ground portion of the pipeline and turned a large valve that ushered the landfill gas into the power plant. “We come together to publicly dedicate this pipeline,” she said Friday. “My city colleagues would want me to say, ‘It’s been a real gas.’ ”

Virtually everyone involved with the project--city officials, the developer, homeowners and officials with the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County--expects to benefit.

Over 20 years, Glendale officials anticipate revenues and savings of $40 million stemming partly from less money spent on gas needed to operate the power plant.

The project’s developer, Palmer Capital Corp. of Massachusetts, will sell the treated gas to the city for at least $330,000 a month, a discount of 12.5% from what the city spent for natural gas.

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The Scholl Canyon Landfill collects about 2,000 tons of garbage a day from Glendale, Pasadena, Sierra Madre, San Marino and unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County.


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