BAC submitted comments on CalRecycle’s October 2019 draft of regulations to implement the organic waste diversion requirements of SB 1383. CalRecycle expanded the list of eligible alternatives to landfilling to include electricity, heating, and vehicle production from diverted organic waste. The draft regulations also include electricity generation from biomass conversion, but the October draft deleted pipeline biogas, which could exclude the use of biogas for cooking, commercial and industrial purposes.
SB 1383 (Lara, 2016) requires local jurisdictions to divert 50 percent of organics going to landfills by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025. In October, CalRecycle released the nearly final regulations to implement these requirements. The regulations focus on procurement of bioenergy or compost as the compliance mechanism and establish specific procurement amounts. For bioenergy, the draft regulations allow conversion of diverted organic waste to electricity, heating, and vehicle fuel. The draft regulations also allow biomass conversion to electricity.
Bioenergy and its byproducts – biochar or digestate – can reduce powerful Short-Lived Climate Pollutants and restore carbon to the soil, which are two of most urgent steps needed to reverse climate change. An important study just released by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab shows that the biochar and digestate produced as a byproduct of bioenergy, can provide half or more of all the carbon needed to return California’s natural and working lands to net carbon sinks. This is a critical piece of California’s overall climate strategy and the study by LBNL shows that biochar and digestate can provide a really significant part of the solution.
BAC submitted comments in late October on the CPUC’s Order Instituting Rulemaking. BAC urged the Commission to address the need for baseload and flexible generation, to consider opportunities to convert local organic waste to local energy supplies, to include renewable gas for microgrid reliability, to consider the importance of Short-Lived Climate Pollutant reductions, and to consider other upstream benefits like wildfire mitigation and landfill reduction. BAC’s comments are on BAC’s website.
The CPUC is expected to issue the Scoping Ruling in early 2020 and to complete the development of the microgrid framework by the end of 2020.
In September, the CPUC launched a new proceeding to develop a policy framework for microgrids. Microgrids are defined areas of the grid that can operate as part of the larger grid and can also be completely disconnected from (operate independently from) the larger electricity grid. Microgrids include the energy producers, transmission and distribution lines, and energy end users that are within a defined electricity boundary. The goal of establishing microgrids is to enable communities to have a fully independent grid that can operate even when there are disturbances to the regional grid. The recent Public Safety Power Shutoffs have underscored the urgency of developing microgrids, especially for essential services like firefighters and police, hospitals, wastewater treatment, communications, and more.
The CPUC launched the new proceeding to develop the framework for commercializing microgrids. It will consider the appropriate standards, eligible technologies, rates, tariffs and other issues for microgrid development in California.
See the CPUC’s Order Instituting this new Rulemaking: OIR on Microgrids Rulemaking (R.19-09-009)
California Bioenergy and Bloom Energy have announced a collaboration to convert dairy waste into renewable electricity without combustion. CalBio’s dairy digester technology with Bloom Energy’s solid oxide fuel cell technology will capture dairy methane and use it to generate renewable electricity that will power electric vehicles (EVs) throughout California. The CalBio-Bloom Energy solution not only produces clean electricity, it also removes methane that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere. Capturing and utilizing waste methane is a powerful way to positively and quickly impact climate change.
How It Works
CalBio digesters capture biogas, primarily consisting of methane, released from the anaerobic decomposition of dairy manure. CalBio’s technology also separates hydrogen sulfide from the biogas. The biogas is then converted to renewable electricity in a Bloom Energy Server through an electrochemical process. The Bloom Energy Server is the world’s most efficient electricity generator. It produces twice as much electricity as conventional combustion generators using the same amount of biogas. Once generated, all of the renewable electricity can be transmitted via the electric grid to EV charging stations throughout California.
Today, emissions generated by EV charging vary according to when EVs are plugged in to charge. For example, at night, California draws the largest portion of its electricity from burning natural gas or from imported power, including coal, so EV charging may not be very clean at all. Going forward, any EV network buying electricity from a CalBio-Bloom Energy dairy project will be able to provide their customers renewable electricity.
There is an estimated 320 megawatts of economically viable dairy biogas in California. With significant deployments of dairy digesters occurring throughout the California dairy industry, there is need for an on-site power generation solution that uses the captured biogas to generate renewable electricity without combustion.
Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction in California
The state of California has set ambitious goals to reduce all greenhouse gas emissions, including methane. In order to advance these goals, the state provides grants and sets policy through the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Both small and large dairies deploying the new CalBio-Bloom Energy biogas solution will be eligible to apply for CDFA grants. CARB’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), meanwhile, creates value for low carbon fuels, enabling EV charging operators to buy the renewable energy credits generated by dairy farmers to meet carbon reduction goals.
Air Quality Benefits
California’s Central Valley, and especially the San Joaquin Valley, where many dairies are located, has some of the worst air quality in the United States, as well as the highest rates of childhood asthma in California. Using fuel cells to generate electricity from dairy biogas, instead of combustion engines, eliminates smog-forming emissions, and improves air quality and public health. Charging more EVs with renewable electricity will contribute to air quality improvements throughout California, called for under the Governor’s Executive Order for five million zero-emission vehicles by 2030.
“The urgency of the fight against climate change and unhealthy air quality requires us to slash potent, super-pollutant emissions, including methane from agriculture, and get combustion out of our energy and transportation systems,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board. “This solution is a trifecta – slashing methane, avoiding combustion from electricity generation, and supporting our transition to electrified transportation.”
“Our California dairy families play a critical role in producing nutritious, high-quality milk and dairy products, while, at the same time, engaging in air, water, and environmental sustainability efforts,” said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. “This is a great example of the partnerships needed to advance technologies from the Silicon Valley and agriculturally rich Central Valley in order to move the needle further in renewable energy from dairies.”
“While the San Joaquin Valley is already subject to the most stringent air quality regulations in the nation, innovative programs such as this, which assist in deploying the latest clean air technologies, play a vital role in addressing the Valley’s air quality challenges,” said Samir Sheikh, air pollution control officer and executive director for The San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District.
“In bringing together the best technology from Silicon Valley with the best technology from the Central Valley, we’re really doing something special for California,” said N. Ross Buckenham, CEO of CalBio. “With Bloom, we have found an ultra-clean “on-dairy” biogas system that can scale from small to large dairies, with attractive economics for capture and utilization of methane. We’ll create local jobs, generate income for dairy farmers, help the environment by reducing greenhouse gases and fossil fuel consumption and greatly improve local air quality.”
“To achieve its ambitious climate goals, California has to embrace every innovation that can make a difference in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said KR Sridhar, founder, chairman, and CEO of Bloom Energy. “We’re proud to be tackling both the causes and consequences of climate change through this innovative collaboration with CalBio, and through the clean energy that Bloom provides to California businesses every day.”
The University of California has announced an exciting partnership with Anaergia to buy $42 million worth of biogas from Anaergia’s Rialto facility in Southern California. The UC System is making the purchase as part of its plan to reach carbon neutrality – zero net carbon emissions – by mid century. When fully built, the Rialto biogas facility will be the largest organic waste to energy facility in the country and will help California to meet its landfill reduction, methane reduction and clean energy goals. Anaergia’s facility will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 220,000 metric tons per year, the equivalent of taking 46,700 cars off the road.
See the University of California announcement and a video about the project here.
BAC has urged CalRecycle to amend its draft regulations on SB 1383 to include all bioenergy end uses and all eligible conversion technologies to help meet the organic waste diversion requirements of SB 1383.
In January 2019, CalRecycle issued draft regulations to implement the organic waste diversion requirements of SB 1383 (Lara, 2016). SB 1383 requires local jurisdictions to divert 50 percent of organic waste away from landfills by 2022 and 75 percent by 2025. CalRecycle issued draft regulations in 2018, which BAC and others commented on to urge CalRecycle to allow all end uses of bioenergy produced from diverted organic waste and to allow all eligible conversion technologies to meet the diversion requirements.
In January, CalRecycle issued the first formal draft of SB 1383 regulations. See CalRecycle Proposed SB 1383 regulations (Jan2019)
CalBio and Land O’Lakes are creating an innovative farmer-led model for “barn to biogas” that can shape nationwide solutions to agricultural methane emissions reduction and unlock new revenue streams for dairy farmers.CalBio provides the expertise needed to develop, execute and manage on-farm methane digesters, as well as market R-CNG credits in California, in a manner that is cost effective for farmers. This partnership with CalBio will also help Land O’Lakes dairy member-owners in California to meet new state standards that call for a 40 percent reduction in dairy and livestock manure-related methane emissions from 2013 levels by 2030.
“CalBio’s dairy digesters are proven in California. We are excited to expand that work even further through this collaboration with Land O’Lakes and their member-owners in California,” said Neil Black, president of CalBio. “Our expertise and ongoing operational support will help dairy farmers make the most of a significant new revenue stream through biogas generation, while allowing them to stay focused on doing what they do best – producing wholesome, delicious food in a sustainable way.”
Learn more about the CalBio partnership.