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Why This Conservationist is Voting YES on Measure E—Green Energy and Compost Here in Palo Alto

Why this conservationist says : Vote Yes on Measure E

Please join me in supporting Measure E, the Palo Alto Green Energy and Compost Initiative—that will be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Measure E will help keep composting in Palo Alto by repurposing 10 acres (8 percent) of the city landfill next to the sewage treatment plant for an organic waste conversion facility. Right now, all 126 acres of the landfill are scheduled to be added to Byxbee Park, which is why we need a vote to undedicate a small portion for an alternative use.

If the land becomes available, this would allow Palo Alto the option of building an anaerobic digester, a proven technology that uses microorganisms in enclosed containers to break down yard trimmings, food scraps and even sewage sludge into renewable energy and compost. 

The benefits are:

1) Saving the city (and rate payers) $1 million per year.
2) Producing 1.4 megawatts of biogas (natural gas), enough to meet the needs of 1,400 households.  This energy would be available even when the grid goes down.
3) Reducing our greenhouse  gas emissions by 20,000 tons per year compared to current practices (the equivalent of planting 1.5 million trees or taking 2,600 cars off the road).
4) Enabling us to retire our dirty sewage sludge incinerator, which is expensive to operate and produces tremendous greenhouse gas emissions.
5) Allowing Palo Alto to maintain its yard waste drop-off.

You can view the current list of endorsers here.

To add your name, please fill out the form on the endorsements page or send an email to info@pagreenenergy.org.

Thank you for considering this request.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Camden Swita October 01, 2011 at 12:19 AM
Is the infrastructure already in place to use this biogas?
Alice Smith October 02, 2011 at 07:26 PM
This measure is to change the zoning from park-dedicated to use for the purpose of reuse of the biomaterials. So the infrastructure will be City-Council driven. The staff will be making specific recommendations for action. One question that has come up is: "What about the sludge?" Here is one considered approach, which the city staff will no doubt be considering. Right now our sewage sludge gets incinerated at a cost of $1 million worth of energy per year, 6,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year, and the waste ash gets hauled 185 miles to Kettleman City at a cost of $200,000 per year. We would like to digest it with food waste to produce biogas and compost. Instead of burning fossil fuels to incinerate our sludge, we could extract its energy to help power the sewage treatment plant. There will be a question of what to do with the digestate (leftover material). One option is to compost it aerobically with yard waste. There will be questions about the marketability of that compost, so we might want to do two streams to isolate the sludge compost. Whatever the choice, we have to change the park status for the 8+ acres next to the sewage treatment plant as the first steps. Thanks for your query.
Alice Smith October 10, 2011 at 05:38 AM
I did not add the photo which is not correct. Please remove this photo from this story. The city will need to determine exactly how to develop the facility, and will make its decision with consultation from staff, the community and experts in the field. I am convinced that though Bybee Park, as are all of our parks, is a precious piece of land, I believe that not finding a solution to the problems of sludge, compost and other refuse in a way to reclaim the energy and reduce the dependence on petroleum-based solutions is essential to the future of our future: both politicial and environmentally1.

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