OK likely for chicken-waste power plant near Sonoma County airport

Sonoma County supervisors are expected Tuesday to approve a proposed energy plant powered by chicken waste near the county's airport.

The project, put forward by the private partnership OHR BioStar and the Sonoma County Water Agency, would generate methane gas and power a 1.4 megawatt fuel cell.

Electricity from the fuel cell would be sold to the county Water Agency, supplying about a quarter of the agency's power needs. The unused methane — about three-quarters of the total produced — would be sold to PG&E.

The $48 million project is to be financed through bonds sold by the California Municipal Finance Authority. The county would bear no construction, liability or closure costs.

Supervisors, who serve as directors of the water agency, are set to sign off on a 20-year power purchase agreement with OHR BioStar and a site lease for the plant. The hearing is one of two set for 10 a.m.

The project, including three 65-foot-tall methane digester towers, is is to be built on 5.4 acres of Water Agency land near an existing wastewater treatment plant off Skylane Boulevard.

The county's zoning board, in a unanimous May 26 decision, approved a use permit for the facility and signed off environmental studies of the project.

Opposition to the plant has largely faded since it was switched from a previously proposed location south of Sonoma.

At that time, impacts from odor, traffic and poor aesthetics were mentioned by airport-area interests concerned about the plant. Others, including a representative of the area's largest commercial landowner, the Airport Business Center, said they were satisfied by the project's studies and plans.

A list of 97 conditions in its use permit spells out reporting requirements and limits on noise, traffic, odor and other impacts.

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