Starting in December, methane created by decomposing garbage at the Winnebago Landfill will be piped to a new power plant at the site.
The garbage you’ve put on the curb each week could soon be producing “green power” in the form of electrical energy for companies and homes as far east as New Jersey.
Starting in December, methane created by decomposing garbage at the Winnebago Landfill will be piped to a new power plant at the site. There, four huge Caterpillar generators will use the methane to generate electricity, and it will be sent by power lines to users across a large region.
The $8 million plant, built and owned by Integrys Energy Services, will turn out about $2.5 million worth of electricity a year at the wholesale price, said Charles Koontz, asset development manager for Integrys at its Worthington, Ohio, office.
Experts in the energy industry say there is a growing demand for methane-produced power, in part because more businesses are thinking green and in part because states are beginning to require that a percentage of power be from renewable sources such as methane or solar operations.
“This is the right thing to do for our customers, and it’s a good investment,” Koontz said.
Integrys was formed earlier this year from People’s Energy and Wisconsin Public Service. The methane plant at the Winnebago Landfill is the first new power plant since the companies combined into Integrys.
John Lichty, vice president of waste companies for William Charles, which owns the landfill, said his company has been exploring deals like this since 2002. As part of the project, the landfill will retain a percentage of the sales.
“All of a sudden, it’s popular in the marketplace,” he said.
Selling the methane makes sense, Lichty said. It eliminates the need to burn it off in flares. That’s what the landfill has been doing to prevent methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, from entering the atmosphere.
Using the gas also reduces the monitoring requirements, some of them 30 years or more, on closed portions of the landfill.
Best of all, it makes use of a valuable resource. Methane contains 55 percent natural gas, the same fuel used to heat many homes and businesses.
Lichty said the landfill is looking at other ways to convert waste into useful fuel, including recovering exhaust heat and finding industrial uses for carbon dioxide, which is the main component, besides methane, in landfill gases.
Endurant Energy developed the plan for using the landfill’s methane and worked with William Charles and Integrys on the project. ComEd reinforced power lines between the landfill and the Blackhawk substation so the electricity can be sent to a transmission grid.
Paul Callighan, a ComEd spokesman, said the utility giant purchased 130 megawatts of electrical power produced by landfill gases in 2006.
Staff writer Geri Nikolai can be reached at 815-987-1337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
From trash to energy
Methane gas produced by rotting garbage at the Winnebago County Landfill will power four engines and generate 6.4 megawatts of electricity, which is the annual energy equivalent of:
581,818 barrels of oil
Powering 5,000 Rockford homes