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Turning your garbage into electricity
The Austin Road landfill. - photo by Photo Contributed

Your garbage might just be going to power your home.


On Thursday morning several dozen local dignitaries braved the cold and the rain to formally welcome the 4.3 megawatt methane-gas power plant at the Forward Inc. landfill on Austin Road that will use the gas being generated as a byproduct of track breakdown to create enough electricity to power 1,600 homes. Manteca trucks municipal garbage there to be buried. The site is less than 10 miles north of downtown Manteca.

The way that it works is simple – over the course of the last year 230 methane wells were dug strategically at points throughout the 500-acre site, a subsidiary of Republic Services, and will pull in methane that is then used to spin a pair of turbines at a central plant.

Having a focus on renewable energy, said San Joaquin County Supervisor Bob Elliott, is important – not only because of its environmental benefits but also because of ingenuity involved and the jobs that it provides as the project lays a footprint for future expansion. 

“I think that you have a great example here of a company that is finding new uses for the resources that are at its disposal, and in this case that means doing something with the landfill gas that comes as a result of this process and that’s really a win-win for the residents of San Joaquin County,” Elliott said. “It’s doing something great with what would normally just sit there, do something that’ll benefit the environment and bring jobs at the same time. 

“It’s a great thing for our economy all the way around.”

Currently Republic Services operates a similar system at their landfill off of Vasco Road, which served as somewhat of a template when the approval and green light were given for this project nearly two years ago. 

Site general manager Kevin Basso said that it took about 12 months to complete but all aspects are now up and operational and requires roughly 25 employees spread out over two shifts to keep everything humming. 

The power that is generated will be put back into the power grid, and the 4.3 megawatts currently being generated can jump up to 8 once all of the infrastructure is in place for such an expansion. 

“It’s a way to make use of an existing resource and create something that’s valuable in numerous ways,” Basso said. “It’s something that we’ve done at other facilities and the results have been good so we’re expecting the same here.”