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Construction underway on facility that turns food scraps into electricity

Greta Mart/KCBX
One of the hauling trucks that will bring green and food waste to the plant.

The future of garbage disposal  - and energy production  - was on display Tuesday morning at the San Luis Garbage Company facility on San Luis Obispo’s Old Santa Fe Road. It was the official groundbreaking for a new project called an anaerobic digester plant. 

“This project will be taking green waste and food waste from residential and commercial entities, processing the material inside an enclosed building, going through an anaerobic digester to create biogas,” William Skinner, West Coast sales manager for a company called Hitachi Zozen Inova (HZI). “We’ll be creating electricity from that, with the resulting compost from the digester being used in local agricultural farms.”

A global company with the tagline “waste is our energy,” Hitachi Zozen Inova builds facilities that make energy out of garbage, among its other products and technologies. It has built several similar plants in Europe, Asia and Japan; one in Switzerland has been creating electricity out of 11,000 tons of green waste annually since 1995.

Starting in 2015, the company worked with San Luis Obispo County to build a plant here to produce electricity from food waste, enough to power 600 homes year in, year out. 

“This is going to be the first facility like it in the entire United States….that’s a big deal,” San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill told a few dozen engineers, waste disposal industry insiders and Central Coast agricultural leaders who turned out for the groundbreaking ceremony inside a 13,000-square-foot building that once was home to the Chicago Bridge and Ironworks company.

The existing building will be repurposed and an additional building built on the site. So far, the cement foundation for the digester is poured and construction slated start on the rest of the facility soon. Once built, every day the facility will divert and process about 100 tons of garbage that would normally go into a landfill. The digester plant is expected to be up and running by summer of 2018.

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