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Landfill Gas Converted to Electricity : Energy: Glendale’s $10-million project is one of eight such systems in county. It is the most powerful one in the Valley.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

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

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

Eight such systems are now being used at landfills and power plants throughout Los Angeles County, according to sanitation officials. Three of them, including Glendale’s, are in the San Fernando Valley.

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, say officials with the Sanitary Districts of Los Angeles County. 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, said of a similar operation in Whittier.

Cindy Jacobs, who works for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, has been assigned specifically to encourage greater use of the process nationwide. “We view them as being extremely environmentally beneficial,” she said.

Glendale’s $10-million project is the most powerful gas-to-energy system in the Valley, capable of reaching two to three times the number of households served by the other sites.

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Methane and carbon dioxide naturally emitted by decomposing trash at the Scholl Canyon Landfill is collected, treated, compressed and dehydrated with equipment at the site.

It is then transported to the city’s power plant 5 1/2 miles away via a pipeline beneath city streets.

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

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.

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“We come together to publicly dedicate this pipeline,” she told a gathered audience. “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 city officials anticipate revenues and savings of $40 million stemming partly from fewer dollars 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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Dave Weaver, president of the Glenoaks Canyon Homeowners Assn. and a civil engineer, considers the pipeline safe from unexpected accidents. “This is not going to blow up,” he said. “It’s not under that kind of pressure. We explained that to our members.”

The Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, which operates the Scholl Canyon Landfill, does not share in any money generated by the Glendale project, but it earns more than $40 million a year from the Puente Hills Landfill in Whittier by selling electricity to Southern California Edison.

Other gas-to-energy operations are located at the Bradley and Penrose landfills in Sun Valley, and landfills in Pomona, Palos Verdes, West Covina and the Griffith Park area.

After more than three years of negotiations, Glendale city officials allowed installation to begin on the pipeline--mostly along Lexington Drive and Glenoaks Boulevard--in January. It was completed six months later.

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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.

Garbage takes years to decompose. But all landfills emit methane gas around the clock, a substance that environmentalists say contributes to smog and global warming.

Methane gas collected at the Glendale landfill had been set afire and released into the atmosphere regularly, city officials said.

“The alternative (to gas-to-energy systems) is much worse environmentally,” said Maribel Marin, a senior research associate for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This method is by far superior.”

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Pipeline Project A “gas to energy” pipeline opened Friday in Glendale. Gas from decomposing refuse at Scholl Canyon Landfill will be piped to Grayson Power Plant, then treated and converted to electricity. Source: City of Glendale


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