Landfill to turn trash into electricity

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

Posted by Terry Alexander - email

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - The garbage may soon be used to power your home and at the same time, Henrico County will use it to make money.

Henrico County stands to pull in up to $400,000 every year by taking all the methane gas that's produced at the landfill, and converting it into electricity.

The vultures that live off the landfill can only do so much. The real work is done by the tiny bacteria underneath it all. Over time, they break down the garbage, and expel 900 cubic feet of methane gas every minute.

"Presently, we simply collect the methane and we burn it through an on-site flare. So it's really being wasted. It's a great energy source, but we don't have an energy producer to use it," said Director of Solid Waste Steve Yob.

That's where Henrico-based "Ingenco" comes in. This week the county board agreed to let the landfill "sell" the methane to Ingenco, so the company can use it to make electricity.

"So instead of having that simply being flared, I think everybody can relate to the idea that it's a good thing to use an energy resource that's being wasted," said Alan Petersen, Ingenco VP of Development.

Ingenco will have to install engines which run on methane. The gas will be piped in, and the power that's generated, will then be sold to the regional grid. It's enough to meet the needs of more than three thousand homes and their owners may only notice one small change.

"When our plant is built and we're producing electricity, our flare won't even be there," Yob said.

Otherwise the landfill would continue to collect and burn-off a potentially harmful greenhouse gas.

"We would rather use this gas for productive use to make electricity than to simply burn it. Just makes a lot more sense," said Yob.

Henrico won't be the first to use the technology. Just the latest to go green, environmentally, and to "make" some green; as in 200 to 400 thousand dollars a year.

"We are turning that, instead of a problem, into a product," Petersen said.

It's estimated that the project will be operational in about one year.

(c) 2009. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.