Los Angeles — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joined the Bureau of Reclamation, the California Energy Commission, and Congressman Col. Paul Cook at the ceremonial start of Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority’s carbon-neutral energy project located at their wastewater treatment facility in Victorville, Calif. The facility aims to go off-the-grid, creating energy using tons of waste that would otherwise be sent to landfills.

Carbon neutrality will be the end result of the plant’s Omnivore Biogas Renewable Energy Project. The project will produce 100 percent renewable power by more efficiently treating both sewage and organic waste, such as food, that would otherwise be disposed of in landfills. Replacing 9 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually and preventing more than 1,400 tons of waste from entering landfills, the result is the equivalent to taking more than 2,000 passenger cars off the road annually. The facility will be 100 percent energy neutral by the start of 2015 and could potentially save taxpayers $9 million over 20 years.

Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority, teaming with Anaergia, a clean energy group located in Carlsbad, Calif., retrofitted an out-of-commission anaerobic digester with new and unique technology that boosts its energy development capacity by increasing the amount of organic waste and sludge that can be digested and converted into biogas. The biogas is then turned into electricity to power the plant operations. Several high-energy waste-streams such as fats, oils, and grease (FOG), and food processing wastes are being evaluated for potential introduction into the digester.

“We are pleased that the support of the community and its elected officials has created an opportunity to generate clean renewable power from a waste product,” said Logan Olds, VVWRA General Manager. “It demonstrates the value of partnerships between public agencies, private companies and regulating agencies.”

“The Victor Valley plant is a great example of how local governments and companies can produce renewable energy in an innovative way to fight climate change,” said John Kemmerer, EPA’s Associate Water Division Director for the Pacific Southwest region. “If the hundreds of the similar wastewater treatment plants in California achieved carbon neutrality, it would save approximately 1.25 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is equivalent to the electricity used annually by approximately 120,000 homes.”

The treatment plant was developed through a $2 million grant from the California Energy Commission as well as $600,000 in funding from Anaergia. In 2012, EPA provided technical assistance during project development and coordinated an audit with the U.S. Department of Energy to identify energy generation and efficiency opportunities. The audit was used to leverage funding for the project.

“The community has responded with overwhelming support, and VVWRA is being contacted regularly to accept new sources of organic waste from the community,” said Meganne M. Harvey, project engineer with Anaergia Inc.