Written by The Business Journal Staff
The Tulare County Board of Supervisors this week denied an appeal from Sundale Vineyards, a neighbor of Harvest Power’s facility near Tulare, to deny a permit to build a biomethane digester and expand its composting facility.
Meanwhile, in the same week, the California Energy Commission approved funding of more than $5.1 million to convert organic waste to biomethane via anaerobic digestion at the Harvest Power facility, where yard waste and food is converted into compost and mulch. The biomethane will be cleaned, compressed and used as transportation fuel at a compressed natural gas fueling station to be constructed on site.
The private company would contribute more than $9 million toward the project as well, according to the CEC application.
Sundale Vineyards, also located on Road 140 east of Tulare, filed an appeal against the project with the county for a conditional use and special use permit to build the digester and CNG facility.
Attorney Tim Jones filed the Sundale appeal, saying the environmental impact report circulated on the project was flawed and that the vineyard owners were concerned about contamination from manure that will be used at the site. There were concerns for the nearby school as well.
The county’s response is that the project will require some mitigation, but the appeal is without merit. However the vineyard could file a challenge in court that could further delay the project.
Harvest Power notes that the digester will accept food waste, green waste and manure and will be enclosed so manure odors should not be significant.
Harvest Power seeks to expand the capacity at its compost plant, formerly Tulare County Compost, by 156,000 tons to 216,000 tons per year, build a digester on site and supply a CNG fueling station that will offer biomethane — a natural gas substitute — for sale.
The Tulare digester is one of three such large-scale digesters to be proposed in the past year in the county. Another is next to the Tulare wastewater plant that is scheduled to begin construction later this year. The other is next to the Calgren ethanol plant near Pixley. All of the projects purport to help reduce air emissions in the Valley by taking a waste product and turning it into energy. The digesters reduce air impacts by controlling the emissions in an enclosed chamber.
All face some skepticism from neighbors, however.