Permission to Power: Orange County’s third landfil gas-to-energy facility began commercial operations this year, but not without meeting the region’s strict air quality standards.

By Katie Fletcher, Biomass Magazine.

The transition from vision to reality involves many challenges for renewable energy projects. Without a sufficient energy source, capital and consent, the transition is impossible to make. One might assume that in comparison to conventional energy projects, projects focused on reducing environmental impacts and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have an easier time obtaining permits and meeting regulatory requirements, but often, this isn’t the case. The same challenges in obtaining permits for conventional energy projects apply to renewable energy ventures, in addition to other unique requirements.

Pennsylvania-based Montauk Energy has experienced this reality firsthand.Through its Bowerman Power subsidiary, the company developed a 23-MW renewable energy project located within the South Coast Air Basin, a nonattainment basin. This means any incremental increase in air quality must meet strict requirements when undergoing the permitting process with the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The $60 million landfill gas-to-renewable-energy (LFGTE) facility, financed by Cat Financial Services Corp., is located on 2.6 acres of the 725-acre Frank R. Bowerman Landfill near Irvine, California. This project joins other large LFGTE projects in the area (Olinda in Brea and Prima Deshecha in San Juan Capistrano) with the aim of reducing GHG emissions. The Bowerman facility is estimated to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 53,000 tons annually. The plant will generate roughly 160,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity, sufficient to serve the equivalent of 26,000 energy-efficient homes in Southern California, and sold to Anaheim Public Utilities under a 20-year power purchase agreement. Collectively, the three LFGTE operations produce approximately 380,000 MWh of electricity annually, enough to power some 56,000 Southern California homes.