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Landfill Gas and Energy Generation

landfillAs landfill facilities and both private and goverment sector organizations are realizing the benefits of landfill gas (LFG), more and more unique partnerships are being formed across the United States--showing us that waste conversion can be a promising source of energy, that's both efficient and inexpensive. Because of the growing problem of municipal solid waste (MSW), and the growing size of landfills, it's become a valuable resource to produce a wide variety of energy byproducts. In 2010 alone, Americans disposed of 250 million tons of MSW. Today, 22 percent of operating and/or recently closed landfills are implementing some sort of resource recovery initiative.

I had the opportunity to interview experts who've led two successful partnerships to discuss the benefits of LFG recovery projects: Barry Edwards, Director of Engineering and Utilities at 
Catawba County, and David Specca, Assistant Director for Bioenergy and Controlled Environment Agriculture at Rutgers University EcoComplex.

What are the absolute benefits of LFG recovery projects? According to the Environmental Protection Agency benefits include: a direct reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, indirect reduction of pollution by offsetting the use of nonrenewables, and a catalyst to local economies by generating revenue from the sale of recovered methane. 

Rutgers' EcoComplex is a 100-acre multipurpose facility that produces enough energy from its methane-collecting wells to serve several facilities--one of those being a greenhouse that grows more than 10,000 plants each month. The facility also partnered with Acrion Technology to produce natural and liquid gas for truck fuel, resulting in Mack Truck/Volvo acquiring the technology. Specca goes on to describe limitless facility opportunities, "Because LFG generally converts 25-30 percent of energy in the gas to electricity, we're promoting technologies that can utilize heat for other purposes such as heating a greenhouse or warehouse--this can essentially transform a resource recovery center into a renewable energy center for a cluster of industries that can take advantage of the heat and electrcity."

Edwards describes the industrial park located in Catawba County, also called an EcoComplex, "Our industrial park is employing industrial ecology symbiosos by combinging waste management, energy production, and university research. The EcoComplex incorporates shared, mutually beneficial relationships between industry bypdroducts and required manufacturing resources."

The Catawba County EcoComplex is an impressive 800 acres and has several symbiotic parternships demonstrating the vast opportunities and few limitations among potential partnerships. With methane wells scattered throughout its site, enough LFG is produced to convert into energy for some 1,500 residential properties. The remaining heat energy is later pipelined to Appalachian State University, whose ultimate goal is to develop a closed-loop biodiesel facility. Really demonstrating the innovative possibilities is the relationship formed between the onsite lumber company and pallet maker, in which the pallet maker uses lumber waste to make it's product. 

The experts agree that these projects will continue growing in popularity as more organizations realize the potential between partnerships. Additionally the EPA has recently rolled out their Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) encouraging landfill operators to undertake a similar initiative. Check out the EPA Energy Benefits Calculator to assess the potential impact of your project. Or visit our company's site for more energy management news. 

Do you have experience in resource recovery facilities? If so, share your ideas, thoughts, and insights below.