August 24, 2009

Utility turns leftovers into energy

An experimental program in the San Francisco Bay area is turning leftovers from 2,300 restaurants into methane gas to generate electricity, officials said.

One hundred tons of scraps each week are taken to a wastewater treatment plant in Oakland, where special tanks filled with microbes speed decomposition to produce methane gas that, in turn, powers the treatment plant, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District program is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, project engineer John Hake said.

The utility expects to begin selling power from the program to Pacific Gas & Electric Co. by the end of next year. The project also reduces landfill waste and greenhouse gases.

The program could yield a significant amount of energy, long-term, Hake said. It's no silver bullet, but it could be one part of a portfolio of renewable energy sources.