Santa Rosa, CA - Farms To Fuel Project - FAQs

Sonoma County, CA FARMS to FUEL PROJECT

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Anaerobic Digestion?

Anaerobic digestion is a series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen, used for industrial or domestic purposes to manage waste and/or to release energy.

Anaerobic digestion is widely used as a renewable energy source because the process produces a methane and carbon dioxide rich biogas suitable for energy production, helping to replace fossil fuels. The nutrient-rich digestate which is also produced can be used as fertilizer.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that biogas was first used for heating bath water as early as the 10th century BC. In the 17th century it was scientifically determined that flammable gases could evolve from decaying organic matter and that there was a direct correlation between the amount of decaying organic matter and the amount of flammable gas produced.

Additional information may be found at:

2. Why is the plant so big?

In order to maximize the digestive process, continuous mixing of the digestate must occur. Therefore each holding tank needs a 1:1 construction ratio, diameter to height, in order to achieve ultimate mixing properties. At this particular site, each tank needs to hold 1,000,000 gallons of digestate. Ergo, our tanks are 65' tall and 60' in diameter.

Additional information may be found at:
(see page 4 for description and picture)

3. What is the risk?

There is virtually no risk in a well-designed BioEnergy Plant that follows all safety standards for fire prevention and control as well as sound construction techniques.

The plants design and construction is carefully reviewed and monitored by various agencies within Sonoma County following Federal, State and local guidelines such as permitting, planning, code enforcement, etc.

4. Are there any airport hazards?

When properly located near an airport, there should be minimum risk and hazard(s) to the aircraft flying in and out of the airport.

Many factors are considered when locating the BioEnergy Plant such as:

  • Height of the structures
  • Distance from the end of active runways
  • Traffic patterns
  • Plumes of smoke, steam or thermal masses
  • Light emissions at night

Due to current zoning regulations and general plans, most industrial areas in Sonoma County are located at or near airports. BioEnergy plants, as well as other industrial operations, can only be located in an industrial zoned area. Therefore, this plant will be located close to an airport.

5. Will the plant smell? Will there be any odors?

Every effort is being made to ensure that the plant and its operation will not create offensive odors.

Every manure truck will be tarped before it leaves the farm. Once the truck arrives on site, it will be weighed and then immediately enter the waste receiving building. Once the truck is inside, an electric door will descend, the building will be negatively pressurized, the air scrubbers will be turned on and the truck will be emptied – horizontally, into a receiving pit below the truck.

The manure will then be pumped into a sealed mixing tank, to be blended with additional matter that may be required. All of the material will then be pumped into one of the sealed anaerobic digesters.

6. How much additional traffic will this project create?

We will need about 8 truckloads of organic waste per day. Plus we will have approximately 12 employees per work shift. Add delivery, trash and other miscellaneous trucks per day and you have approximately 20 vehicles per day on the average.

However, our goal is to employee Sonoma County people. If we meet our goal, then the 12 employee vehicles will not "add" to the traffic flow. The delivery, trash and other miscellaneous trucks per day are already in the neighborhood.

That leaves the 6 truckloads of organic waste. You may not be aware of the fact that 4 of those trucks are already using Shiloh on a daily basis.

Therefore, the impact on traffic should be minimal.

7. How much noise will this plant create?

Since nearly all of the processing is done within contained buildings, there should not be any additional noise over and above the present values within the business park.

Perhaps the greatest sound will come from the gas compression equipment. According to current documentation, the noise level for this process will not exceed 85 dB. Below is a table of relative noise values.

  • 0 dB - near total silence
  • 15 dB - whisper
  • 60 dB - normal conversation
  • 90 dB - lawnmower
  • 110 dB - car horn
  • 120 dB - rock concert or a jet engine
  • 140 dB - gunshot or firecracker
8. What would happen to the plant in the event of an earthquake?

We are building all of our structures to meet or exceed current earthquake building standards. We will be using such things as the Norton Gas Valve, which automatically shuts down the gas lines during an earthquake. Flexible pipe joints will also be used so that the pipes will bend and flex during an earthquake. Quick disconnect fittings will be installed on hazardous lines wherever possible.

9. Will there be visible steam and smoke from the plant?

No, all of the processes within the BioEnergy plant will not emit or produce any visible steam or smoke during normal operations.

If the outside temperature goes below 25°F, there maybe a visible white steam plume until the temperature returns to normal.

10. With the waste stream feed stock, will there be pests and birds at the site?

During transportation and processing, all of the waste streams are contained in buildings, pipes, sealed tanks and covered trucks. None of the feed stock will be left in the open and therefore no pests or bird issues are expected.

11. What is a Fuel Cell?

A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts chemical energy from a fuel into electric energy. Electricity is generated from the reaction between a fuel supply and an oxidizing agent. The reactants flow into the cell, and the reaction products flow out of it, while the electrolyte remains within it. Fuel cells can operate continuously as long as the necessary reactant and oxidant flows are maintained.

Fuel cells are different from conventional electrochemical cell batteries in that they consume reactant from an external source, which must be replenished – a thermodynamically open system. By contrast, batteries store electric energy chemically and hence represent a thermodynamically closed system.

Many combinations of fuels and oxidants are possible. A hydrogen fuel cell uses hydrogen as its fuel and oxygen (usually from air) as its oxidant. Other fuels include hydrocarbons and alcohols. Methane produced in an anaerobic digester process can fuel the plant and generate electricity, thus making the fuel cell a renewable energy source.

Additional information may be found at:

12. What will be the hours of operation?

The plant will operate the most during normal business hours and days.

An anaerobic digester works 24/7/365; therefore there will be staff and monitoring systems running 24/7/365 also.

13. As a resident of Sonoma County, who is watching out for me?

Many agencies and representatives within Sonoma County are carefully monitoring and reviewing all of the planning and construction of this bio-energy plant. It all starts with your Board of Supervisors.

Sonoma County Board of Representatives
14. What is going to happen to my property value?

Since this is a commercial project in an industrial park conforming to the Zoning regulations and General Plan of the cities and County of Sonoma, there should not be any detrimental consequences to your property value.

Due to the nature of the project—sustainable and renewable energy—it may even increase it.

15. Will any jobs be created?

During construction, it is expected that over 90 people will be working on this project.

During operations, it is expected that over 35 people will be working.

Our goal is to hire and utilize as many Sonoma County persons as possible. There will be a very few specialized tasks that could require people from outside of the county if the talent is not available within the county.