OCEANSIDE — The smoke stacks at the San Luis Rey Wastewater Recycling Facility that used to puff 5,600 tons of methane gas a year into the air are no longer smoking thanks to the environmentally friendly co-generation system that was installed a year ago.
“Two flames used to burn 24/7,” Dennis Butts, operation supervisor for San Luis Rey Wastewater Recycling Facility, said. “They’re eliminated with the system.”
The facility that converts the gas into useable energy was privately funded and built and saves the city about $250,000 annually in electric and natural gas costs. “It’s such a reward to the city no one could believe it,” Chuck Randy, a member of the utility commission and former employee of So Cal Gas Company, said.
The impressive facility is one of 48 co-generation systems in California, seven of which are set up at wastewater treatment plants. “All of them are municipal capital works projects, but not this one,” Joe Silva, director of operations for Cal Power, said.
It is the only privately funded facility. To recoup costs there is a power purchase agreement with the city to buy the energy that the facility generates. “The power purchase agreement is a win-win,” Silva said.
The idea of an all-green facility was in the planning stages for some time. “We started to introduce the idea to the city 10 years ago,” Randy said. “Things have changed dramatically, technology has changed. Ten years ago was the dark ages.”
Energy produced in the first six months exceeded expectations. Estimates were 3.7 million kilowatt hours of energy, and 4.16 million kilowatt hours were produced.
The keys to the facility’s success are its four ultra-efficient engines that run the gas scrubbers, which clean the gas that comes from the slug cleaning tanks during
the wastewater treatment process and reclaim the gas as usable energy.