07/25/05 — Methane gas produced from landfill waste will be converted into electricity

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Methane gas produced from landfill waste will be converted into electricity

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 25, 2005 1:49 PM

By next winter, the lights in your house could be powered by garbage from the Wayne County landfill.

Methane gas, a by-product of landfill waste, will be converted to electricity by Methane Credit, an Arizona- based company with offices in Charlotte.

The electricity will then be sold to Progress Energy.

The county will receive a percentage of Methane Credit's profits from the electricity sales.

Jim Voss, company president, said the program should be up and running by late fall.

Per month, he expects to generate enough electricity for about 100 households in Wayne County.

The county has been preparing for the chance to turn its garbage into dollars for the past several years.

"Whenever you put all the garbage together in a landfill, it's going to create gases," said Lloyd Cook, head of the county's Solid Waste department. "A few years ago, we realized we had enough garbage generating gases that we were falling outside of the Title V regulations."

Those regulations, passed by the federal government in the mid-1990s, established standards for landfills to control those emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency officials say gas coming from landfills contributes significantly to air pollution.

Wayne County began looking at ways to reduce its methane emissions several years ago, and decided to put in a vacuum system in 2003.

In the system, the gas is removed from the landfill using a series of wells and a flare. The collected gas is directed to a central point where it's processed and treated.

According to the EPA, from this point the gas can be flared or used to generate electricity, replace fossil fuels in industrial and manufacturing operations, fuel greenhouse operations or be upgraded to pipeline glass.

For the past two years, the county has gotten rid of the gas by burning it off through a single flare, located on a high point in the landfill.

"We've had between 99 to 100 percent reduction of emissions," Cook said.

The flare burns continuously, though it can't be seen very well during the day.

"It's a big blue flame that you can see at night," Cook said. "When we first started with the methane project, people would come out at night and ride by to look at it."

But that flare may diminish once the methane gas is converted to electricity.

The gas will be re-routed to generators provided by Methane Credit, and the company will then create the electricity. The company has had an option to use the county's gas for the past two years.

"He feels like he'll be up and ready to run by Thanksgiving," Cook said. "He got a grant through Green Power."

The North Carolina Green Power program provides citizens and businesses with the opportunity to support environmentally friendly renewable energy. It's a nonprofit organization that subsidizes, through contributions, renewable energy projects in the state.

"We couldn't function without the supplement from Green Power," Voss said.