Renewable energy continues to be a growing field and MSW operations are ripe for leveraging that trend, notes Peter Livingston, the renewable energy program manager at Orange County Waste & Recycling (OCWR) in California. OCWR recently completed a detailed study of numerous renewable technologies and their future value, ranking anaerobic digestion, solar PVs on closed landfills, and landfill gas to CNG, among others. OCWR also did a waste characterization study to ascertain the organic fraction for each one of its active landfills and how to address that. A project that became operational in March 2016 earned a Silver SWANA Landfill Gas and Biogas Excellence Award. The Frank R. Bowerman Landfill generates methane gas from up to 11,500 tons of waste and is transformed into renewable energy. The project was developed by Montauk Energy of Pittsburgh and hosted by Orange County with Caterpillar providing $60 million in project financing and seven internal combustion engines producing approximately 22 MW. The plant delivers 20 MW of renewable electricity to Anaheim Public Utilities under a 20-year power purchase agreement. OCWR receives revenue. One new project underway is at the closed Coyote Canyon Landfill in Newport Beach, the former site of an economically unsustainable landfill gas to electricity power plant. OCWR has considered several options there, including using fuel cells to convert to electricity, cleaning the landfill to natural gas quality and putting it into the natural gas transmission distribution system, and cleaning the landfill gas as a renewable natural gas to be delivered by tube trailers to another location to fuel truck fleets. Community impact and revenue generation are deciding factors. “Rather than the traditional route of giving landfill gas rights over to the developer, on this one, we want to maintain more control over the wellfield, the maintenance and operations, and all of the compliance activities,” says Livingston. “We’ve left the technology options open for the developer to propose.” At the Prima Deshecha Landfill in San Juan Capistrano, OCWR is examining options when the landfill gas rights divert to the county after the developer agreement terminates in 2022. One option: using it as transportation fuel, which can be “very lucrative compared to producing electricity,” notes Livingston.
What He Does Day to Day
Livingston spends his time in monthly meetings and working out operational issues relating to the three landfill gas to electricity facilities. He’s also engaged in planning efforts with staff and consultants to identify how to maximize the use of landfills for energy production or products. Livingston also works on obtaining grants. “We’re partnering with the Gas Technology Institute on a small pilot project to approve a new low-cost technology to convert landfill gas to pipeline quality,” he adds.
What Led Him to This Line of Work
Livingston earned a BME from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he concentrated on energy conversion. He worked an internship for two summers at a San Diego HVAC plumbing group, applying his knowledge of energy issues as a mechanical design engineer. He then worked for Hewlett-Packard as a site energy manager. Livingston ran his own business doing consulting energy work with San Diego Gas & Electric and also worked as an energy manager for San Diego County before taking his post with Orange County. “Renewable energy is a growing field, so I ended up going here because of my background and interest in energy,” he says.
What He Likes Best About His Work
Livingston enjoys “attending the ceremonies where the equipment that was put onsite starts producing power—the most exciting thing is seeing the concept to an operational facility and you’re a part of seeing that whole transition.”
His Greatest Challenge
OCWR goes to great lengths to comply with air emissions and stormwater management as well as safety considerations in projects, but even so, public objections may create bumps in the road. A project to put a large-scale solar PV system that is “just dirt surrounded by a chain link fence” can turn out to be a nonstarter because the community may object to it, Livingston says. “A project may make sense technically and economically but there are other issues you need to be aware of that will make a project actually happen or not happen.”