Capstone California, a wholly owned subsidiary of Capstone Turbine Corp., announced Tuesday that the installation of its largest commercial landfill gas system to date is now completed at Los Angeles’ Lopez Canyon landfill.

The 50-microturbine system, owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), will convert methane gas collected at the site into 1.5 MW of electricity. In its entirety, this project will produce and send back to the grid enough electricity to power about 1500 homes.

“The microturbine project will create energy from an innovative source and help reduce pollution,” said David H. Wiggs, LADWP general manager. “LADWP is proud of this power plant. It shows that thinking outside conventional standards can bring about creative ideas to help us deal with both energy and ecological issues.”

The project is a unique partnership between the agency and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).

The SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for Southern California covering all of Orange County and the metropolitan portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Nearly half of the state’s entire population, 15 million people, resides in this region.

Funds come from an LADWP commitment to spend $14m on clean air projects in exchange for the right to exceed state air pollution limits while producing power for California’s tight energy market.

Capstone says that the transformation of landfill methane gas into clean energy at the site will eliminate 10 000 pounds of NOx emissions annually – the equivalent of removing 500 cars from Southern California highways.

“This project is an example of how we as regulators are able to balance air quality requirements with economic needs during these challenging times,” said Dr. William Burke, chairman of the SCAQMD.

Bob Fleet, senior vice president of Capstone California and project lead for the Lopez Canyon installation, stated, “Capstone MicroTurbine power generation systems are clean, simple and efficient energy solutions that can go online in months, not years. The forward-thinking leadership at LADWP and SCAQMD are using our technology to transform a source of pollution into valuable electricity homes and businesses can use, and that is good for everyone.”

This is the largest landfill project undertaken by Capstone to date.

Capstone’s microturbine power systems are emerging as a practical and cost-effective technology for North American biogas applications from landfills to wastewater treatment plants and anaerobic digesters — with this announcement coming just weeks after the city of Burbank commissioned a ten-unit system at its local landfill Aug. 2.

Capstone now has almost 100 microturbines in place for biogas applications across North America. A development test site sponsored by the Los Angeles County Sanitation District at its Puente Hills landfill has proven invaluable in the development of this program.

The Capstone MicroTurbine uses scaled-down jet engine technology to generate electricity cleanly from a variety of gaseous and liquid fuels including propane, natural gas, diesel, kerosene and biogas. Operating 90 per cent cleaner than a diesel generator, the Capstone MicroTurbine is well under the low emission standards set by the SCAQMD for an ultra-clean generator.

Mike Tingus, president of Capstone California, added, “Biogas applications are a natural market for our microturbine because waste gases that are otherwise flared into the atmosphere can be utilized essentially as free fuel for the system. The Capstone MicroTurbine can destroy these greenhouse gases more effectively than flaring, and the electricity generated can go back into the grid. It’s good for the community, good for the environment and good for the utility.”

The Capstone MicroTurbine has just one moving assembly, uses no oil, lubricants or coolants, and is designed to operate at full load 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In California, traditional diesel generators, due to pollution concerns, are limited to less than 200 hours (about eight continuous days) of operation per year. Several other states have similar limits.

Capstone MicroTurbines are not subject to such limitations, since they emit extremely low levels of nitrogen oxides. This enables businesses and public facilities to generate power onsite at a cost lower than peak rates while effectively conserving grid power when it is most important to do so.