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A biogas to EV charging project shows promise

A generator that can turn biogas into electricity for EV charging

A generator made by Mainspring can turn biogas into electricity. Photo courtesy of Mainspring

A project that would use biogas from rural landfills to generate electricity for EVs has passed an initial hurdle for a loan guarantee from the Department of Energy.

Why it matters: Turning biogas into clean electricity offers a novel way to provide power to local communities.

What's happening: Bay Area startups Vespene Energy and Mainspring Energy say they've moved to the second round in their application for a $420 million loan guarantee for Project Pleiades, which would build biogas-powered generators at 50 or so landfills.

  • "We're looking at landfills from the same lens as solar developers," says Adam Wright, CEO of Vespene. "We're looking at landfills as distributed energy resources."
  • Mainspring will provide the generators that convert the biogas into electricity, and Vespene is the project developer.
  • Wright says the entire project will cost about $700 million and the company plans to raise project financing to fund it, as well as tap into the Inflation Reduction Act's Investment Tax Credit.

Zoom in: The project could also potentially benefit from an Environmental Protection Agency program called e-Renewable Identification Numbers (eRINS) under its Renewable Fuel Standard.

  • The EPA hasn't finalized the accounting system for eRINS, but Wright is expecting that sometime before the end of the year.
  • Wright said one of the main benefits of tapping smaller landfills across the country is that they can deliver the clean electricity to the distribution grid for the local community, as opposed to waiting to get connected to the transmission grid.

The big picture: The amount of biogas projects in the U.S. is booming, according to the American Biogas Council, a trade group.

  • Many climate tech companies are in various stages of applying for conditional commitments for DOE loan guarantees.
  • Incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act are boosting biogas projects, and some companies like Walmart, Amazon, UPS and Waste Management are using RNG-powered trucks.
  • The council says the U.S. has the potential to build another 15,000 biogas systems over the years, a 7x bump from the current footprint.
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