Valdosta Daily Times

May 12, 2013

Landfill gases turned into electricity

Partnership to begin renewable energy project

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The Pecan Row Landfill is about to get a little cleaner.

Energy Systems Group, Advanced Disposal and Green Power EMC have partnered for a project that will turn methane gas created by the landfill into renewable energy that could power about 2,000 homes.

The landfill, a pile of waste buried under a thick layer of clay, naturally creates methane gas as a by-product of decomposition. Even after the landfill is sealed by a synthetic cap, which will happen soon, it will continue creating methane for about 30 years, said General Manager Greg Walk.

Lines are installed deep into the landfill, like natural gas lines, that pull gas from the trash beneath the ground. Gas does not escape through the clay, and the lines are monitored to make sure there are no leaks.

A synthetic liner underneath the landfill prevents rainwater that leaches through the soil from entering groundwater systems, and is captured and stored in tanks to be treated later.

Landfill operators currently burn the methane off using an open flare, which turns the gas into carbon dioxide, which is 20 times less hazardous to the environment, said Jeff Pratt, Green Power president. Burning the methane is required by federal law.

“What we’re doing is taking in the methane and instead of just burning it, we’re using it as a fuel to power a generator to get some work out of that fuel before it becomes carbon dioxide,” Pratt said. “We’re capturing that energy to make electricity from it.”

Energy Systems Group will construct a secondary facility about 15 yards from the flare that will house a reciprocating piston engine, similar to an automobile engine. The burning methane will power the pistons that will turn an electric generator, Pratt explained.

Green Power will purchase 100 percent of the electricity from the generator and tie it into the main power grid.

“We’re kind of the wholesaler for renewable energy,” Pratt said about Green Power. “ESG is generating the power, and we will immediately sell it to electric cooperatives across the state, which will make it a part of their portfolio to sell to ... customers.”

Since the energy from Pecan Row will feed into main electrical lines, users will not be able to purchase that energy only, but it will appear as part of the electrical package, Pratt said.

The generator is expected to produce about 4.8 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power about 2,000 homes.

The amount of methane created from the landfill is equivalent to emissions of 34,000 cars, and capturing it for end-use electricity is like planting 38,000 acres of forest annually, according to press information provided by the partnership.

“We’re very pleased to be a part of this,” Pratt said. “It’s very good for the community, certainly good for cooperatives and customers. It’s renewable, cost-effective energy, and it’s good to make sure it doesn’t go to waste.”