The Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority (VVWRA) held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sept. 26 for the unveiling of the new Omnivore biogas production system, supplied by Anaergia Inc., and funded in part by the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research program.
State and federal dignitaries, community leaders and members of the public attended the celebration at Victorville’s wastewater treatment facility to celebrate the plant commissioning and energy-neutral power generation.
VVWRA General Manager Logan Olds shared the logistics of the roughly 300-acre facility with much enthusiasm and humor. He says a piece of garbage in his office’s trash bin six years ago gave him the idea for this ambitious new project.
Cost savings and energy neutrality were at the top of the list of goals for the project.
The Omnivore Biogas Renewable Energy Project runs off co-digestion of food waste and sludge, which are treated inside three small digesters the plant already owned.
The project can produce all of the power required to operate, keeping it off the Southern California Edison grid.
VVWRA’s annual electric bills were almost $1 million annually since bolstered by an ultraviolet disinfection system that boosted electrical consumption by 40 percent.
Olds sought to recover the energy in the waste to power this facility so that it could get out of Edison’s rate increase cycles. He believes this only the second facility of this size in the world to do that. Any excess energy produced can be sold by producing power.
The $2.6 million Omnivore digester was built through a $2 million grant from the California Energy Commission, $600,000 in funding from Anaergia and technical assistance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
An additional SCE Self Generation Incentive Program grant of $3.175 million was awarded for the Anaergia Power Generation Facility, VVWRA officials said.
The project comes with no cost increase to ratepayers and is expected to save taxpayers $9 million over the next 20 years (VVWRA will pay Anaergia $734,000 a year at 7 cents per kwh fixed rate, resulting in the estimated savings).
The electrical generation installation costs can be prohibitive unless biogas production rates are relatively high. Treatment facilities may accept additional waste streams to increase biogas production, such as food waste and fats, oils and grease, but the existing anaerobic digesters which produce the gas often cannot be loaded with this external feedstock, and so this typically requires construction of additional digester capacity.
The start-up of the VVWRA Omnivore project is significant to industry because it demonstrates how wastewater treatment plants can increase digester loading and biogas production using existing infrastructure.
The innovation includes Anaergia’s high solids mixers and recuperative thickener, which change an ordinary digester into a high-solids Omnivore digester. The Omnivore retrofit enables VVWRA to triple the digester’s solids content and biogas production rate.
VVWRA will convert the additional biogas into electricity to meet part of the wastewater treatment facility’s electrical demand. This proven solution is something that should please everyone who cares about the environment. It is expected to be 100 percent energy neutral by the start of next year.