Robin is the reporter from the
Voice. She observed my visit to Tulare in much more detail than the
other reporters. For example, she was the only one that went with us to
the wastewater treatment plant.
The guy in the straw hat is in
of the place. He explained that they have two water streams that they
treat. One is the normal household water flow for the urban area, shown
here. The other is the large agricultural waste stream that comes from
the dairys. Since Tulare is the County with the largest Dairy
operations on the planet, this is a considerable volume.
The way they used to process all
the cow manure was to process it
through this large concrete digester, where the methane produced would
be burnt through the flare behind the yellow car. More recently, they
have learned that this gas was a valuable source of energy, and they
have started using it to generate power.
The districts first cogeneration
plant was this one, where a large
internal combustion piston engine drives an electricity generator.
Since it was sized conservatively, they have to flare the gas they
can't run through it. The flare is behind the back left corner of the
shade structure over the generator. You can't see the flame during the
day, but you can see the shade patterns on the ground from the heat it
generates. The honcho assured us it "looks like a big candle" at night.
This is the input stream from the dairy.
Right now that milky flow feeds
these ponds, where
the solids are settled out and then the water is mixed with the cleaned
urban water and released downstream. The guy explained that the
cogeneration plant was so successful that the ponds will all be
replaced by a couple of big enclosed fermenters that will end up
producing about a megawatt of power each. Instead of using an internal
combustion engine, the power will be generated by a large stationary
I see that as a big win. These ponds are currently exhaling methane as
the microorganisms consume the energy available in the manure, urine,
and milk byproducts. Instead, that methane will be collected and run
through a fuel cell where it will be turned into Carbon Dioxide and
water. I'm sure the net effect will at least be less smog, since
methane is a big contributor to that. The honcho said the payback just
from the power generated will come in eleven years or so. David Silva
said "My Assembly campaign is going to be all about turning cow shit
This car was in
parking lot when we got back there. It somehow made sense that
the Intrepid Educator would would want us to slow down for orange cone