How Yolo County leaders are transforming their landfill process

Methane gas is one of the most potent greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. That methane gets produced as organic waste from things like food, plant material and sewage is broken down by bacteria in the soil. As California works towards a statewide goal of carbon neutrality by the end of 2045, big steps need to be taken to not only reduce those methane emissions but turn those emissions into something useful. Leaders with the Yolo County Central Landfill are making progress towards doing both of those things. On Wednesday morning, a group of county officials and waste management leaders gathered at the landfill for the grand opening of a new facility that will quadruple YCCL’s capacity for organic waste processing. Currently, the site processes just under 45,000 tons of organic matter each year. In the future, the goal is to take in 182,000 tons from facilities all over Northern California. Ramin Yazdani, the director of Integrated Waste Management for Yolo County, said his goal is to eventually remove the need completely for traditional landfilling.”We have a landfill here that has a life of 2080, but I envision that we will have no landfilling maybe in 10 years,” Yazdani said. During a tour of the new facility, Yazdani explained how incoming organic material is sorted and then screened. Slower-processing solids get added to a large field of composting material. There, a network of pipes forces oxygen deep into the vast compost pile. With this system, bacteria can do most of the work without the need for turning the compost over. This significantly reduces gas emissions and odor.”All we do is monitor the conditions; we adjust the aeration; we adjust the moisture and then we’re able to get a product that is very good,” Yazdani said.That product is fertile compost , which YCCL offers to Yolo County residents for free in the fall and spring. People can go to the facility now through Oct. 31 to take home as much as they want. At the same time, faster-decomposing organic material is sent to a facility at YCCL that quickly captures and stores methane gas as it is produced. Here, water is added to the waste to increase the amount of methane being generated. The idea here is that more trapped methane can yield more renewable energy. Mainspring Energy is a company based in Menlo Park that is helping YCCL to generate that energy. Over the past 12 years, the group’s scientists have been developing commercial-scale generators that utilize multiple clean energy sources. A Mainspring unit is currently being installed at YCCL. Once it is online, it will run exclusively on biogas generated by the organic waste that is processed at the landfill.”You compress it to the point where you can take the chemical energy and turn it into electrical energy. That’s what the unit is doing ,” said Matt Shumway, Mainspring’s director of business development.The generator can then store the energy, use it to power the YCCL facility or ship it to SMUD which can use the energy from one unit to power 3,000 homes.Shumway says this biogas project is a first for Mainspring, but the hope is to use this pilot project as an example for the more than 2,000 biogas-producing sites throughout the country.

Methane gas is one of the most potent greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States. That methane gets produced as organic waste from things like food, plant material and sewage is broken down by bacteria in the soil.

As California works towards a statewide goal of carbon neutrality by the end of 2045, big steps need to be taken to not only reduce those methane emissions but turn those emissions into something useful.

Leaders with the Yolo County Central Landfill are making progress towards doing both of those things.

On Wednesday morning, a group of county officials and waste management leaders gathered at the landfill for the grand opening of a new facility that will quadruple YCCL’s capacity for organic waste processing. Currently, the site processes just under 45,000 tons of organic matter each year. In the future, the goal is to take in 182,000 tons from facilities all over Northern California.

Ramin Yazdani, the director of Integrated Waste Management for Yolo County, said his goal is to eventually remove the need completely for traditional landfilling.

“We have a landfill here that has a life of 2080, but I envision that we will have no landfilling maybe in 10 years,” Yazdani said.

During a tour of the new facility, Yazdani explained how incoming organic material is sorted and then screened. Slower-processing solids get added to a large field of composting material. There, a network of pipes forces oxygen deep into the vast compost pile.

With this system, bacteria can do most of the work without the need for turning the compost over. This significantly reduces gas emissions and odor.

“All we do is monitor the conditions; we adjust the aeration; we adjust the moisture and then we’re able to get a product that is very good,” Yazdani said.

That product is fertile compost, which YCCL offers to Yolo County residents for free in the fall and spring. People can go to the facility now through Oct. 31 to take home as much as they want.

At the same time, faster-decomposing organic material is sent to a facility at YCCL that quickly captures and stores methane gas as it is produced. Here, water is added to the waste to increase the amount of methane being generated. The idea here is that more trapped methane can yield more renewable energy.

Mainspring Energy is a company based in Menlo Park that is helping YCCL to generate that energy. Over the past 12 years, the group’s scientists have been developing commercial-scale generators that utilize multiple clean energy sources.

A Mainspring unit is currently being installed at YCCL. Once it is online, it will run exclusively on biogas generated by the organic waste that is processed at the landfill.

“You compress it [methane gas] to the point where you can take the chemical energy and turn it into electrical energy. That’s what the unit is doing,” said Matt Shumway, Mainspring’s director of business development.

The generator can then store the energy, use it to power the YCCL facility or ship it to SMUD which can use the energy from one unit to power 3,000 homes.

Shumway says this biogas project is a first for Mainspring, but the hope is to use this pilot project as an example for the more than 2,000 biogas-producing sites throughout the country.

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