Robin is the reporter from the Tulare 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 charge 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 fuel cell.

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 into energy."



This car was in the 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 zones.

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