September 19, 2003
Unique Power Plant Partnership In Development Stages
(Lodi, CA)-- “This power plant project creates a win-win-win situation,” said Alan Vallow, Director for the City of Lodi Electric Utility. “The citizens of Lodi and the Electric Utility Department win, because another reliable energy source is developed; the dairy farmers win, because a substantial amount of waste product is removed from their farms every day; and our friends at Woodbridge Irrigation District win because certain water quality issues are addressed.”
According to Vallow, the City of Lodi Electric Utility, in concert with the Woodbridge Irrigation District, are in the exploratory stages of developing an electric generation plant to be sited on the grounds of the White Slough Wastewater Treatment Facility (located along Interstate 5 near Highway 12). The advanced technique is widely employed in Denmark.
In the most basic of terms, the plant would burn or digest cow manure. The product that results from digesting or burning the manure is methane gas, which in-turn fuels and spins a large turbine. The spinning turbine is what generates the electricity. If the plant is given the green light to proceed, it could be operational within twelve months, producing between 5 megawatts and 10 megawatts of electricity daily (one megawatt of electricity is enough to power 1,000 Lodi homes for a day). The City of Lodi Electric Utility is seeking state and federal grant dollars to help fund the construction of the proposed plant.
To further assist in this unique endeavor, the two entities have involved representatives of our locally-elected state and federal legislators offices, as well as County Supervisor Jack Sieglock’s office.
Due to ever-evolving state and federal regulations, the disposal of dairy farm waste has become a difficult chore for many dairy farmers. By hauling this waste to a power plant, and using it to create electricity, an environmental concern is then mitigated.
“The fuel source - cow manure - is provided by the numerous dairy farms located throughout the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley, and is in plentiful supply,” Vallow commented. “This power plant will utilize a waste product that has become increasingly challenging to dispose of around the nation. The unique concept of a centralized plant will allow all interested dairies in the area to participate, regardless of size.”
Vallow also cited other benefits derived from the development of this power plant, including another reliable power source to serve Lodi’s energy needs. In addition, he said the project “further highlights the city’s ongoing commitment and embrace of our agricultural roots. The best way to maintain a greenbelt around this area is by helping to insure that agricultural uses continue to be profitable.”
According to Andy Christensen, Director of the Woodbridge Irrigation District, the power plant project will address a very significant issue for his members: water quality. “Environmental regulations have become more and more onerous, and costly, over the years,” Christensen said. “By removing a lion’s share of the waste created at dairy farms, we’ll go a long way in enhancing water quality. The dairy farmer wins, as do scores of other farmers who must adhere to stringent water quality regulations.”
In closing, Vallow said the next step involves site visits to the various dairy farms in the area, gathering specific information important to the success of the project. Many of the local dairy farmers have participated in the initial power plant discussions, and will continue to do so as the project takes shape in the ensuing months.