It doesn't look like it has any redeeming qualities, but the field of garbage high above Pittsburg is actually the main ingredient for producing enough energy to power 2,200 Bay Area homes.
"It all starts when people bring their garbage out to the curbside," says Rick King.
King is the general manager of the Keller Canyon Landfill, which unveiled its new state-of-the-art plant for converting methane gas from decomposing garbage into electricity.
"Methane is natural gas, a great energy source, and so we capture that through a series of wells and pipes, bring it down here to the power plant and then run the engines and create electricity from that and put it into the grid for everyone to use," says King.
Keller is now capturing enough landfill gas to general 3.8 megawatts of electricity, in a process that's much cleaner burning with lower emissions than plants like this built in the past. The project comes after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., signed an executive order, increasing California's renewable energy standard to 33 percent by the year 2020.
"With the ability to power homes, from what would traditionally be seen as decomposing waste and take the gas that's produced and make electricity to power the homes is a great effort that we're looking towards in helping with our greenhouse gas emissions," says Margo Reid Brown from the California Integrated Waste Management Board.
The energy from the Pittsburg plant will go to customers in Palo Alto and Alameda, already a very green city.
"We're 80 percent non-carbon emitting and 60 percent renewable under the California statute for renewable resources," says Gregory Hamm, from the Alameda Municipal Utilities Board.
And that's good for the environment.
The clean-air benefit of converting the methane gas from the garbage into electricity is equivalent to removing nearly 30,000 cars from the road.
It's enough to make one look at garbage in a whole new light.
To find out more about renewable energy technology Keller Landfill is holding a public picnic, family activities and landfill and project tours on Saturday, October 3, 2009 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Keller Canyon Landfill
901 Bailey Road
Pittsburg, CA 94565