Going for the Green

SOMETIMES LANDFILL GAS-TO-ENERGY (LFGE) project hiccups are unavoidable. Nevertheless, the following projects overcame development barriers, forged strategic alliances and created business opportunities because they recognized that using landfill gas (LFG) for energy was too good of a deal to pass up.

In establishing successful systems that generate renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the projects also earned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) 2002 Project and Partner of the Year awards.

LMOP, Washington, D.C., is a voluntary program that helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by supporting LFGE project development. In January, LMOP held its Sixth Annual Conference and Project Expo in Washington, D.C., at which time the five awardees were recognized.

LMOP and Waste Age magazine are pleased to honor this year's winners.

LMOP Energy Partner of the Year

Omaha Public Power District

The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) is bringing green power to people. Green power is emerging as a power source in many U.S. energy markets as citizens, companies and communities seek to purchase energy produced from renewable sources. LFGE — including what is being supplied by OPPD's Elk City Station — is one source that is fueling green power programs.

Headquartered in Omaha, Neb., OPPD is one of the largest publicly owned electric utilities in the nation and serves more than 280,000 customers in 13 Nebraska counties. Prior to 2002, OPPD had been looking for a renewable power source and had evaluated solar energy, biomass and municipal solid waste.

The district identified LFGE as its most cost-effective, renewable energy option. So the district built a LFGE facility at Waste Management Inc.'s Douglas County Recycling and Disposal Facility, which consists of four generating units and provides electricity generating capacity of 3.2 megawatts (MW). Called the Elk City Station, the facility has been generating power since April 2002 and is the first LFGE project in Nebraska.

This project is designed to reduce methane emissions by approximately 6,750 tons annually and will initially generate enough electricity each year for 2,000 homes, according to project developers. At maximum landfill gas generation, the project will support a capacity of 30 MW, enough power for 23,000 homes. Using LFG will help to displace about 19,000 tons of coal per year that normally would have been used to generate electricity at OPPD's North Omaha Station, the company says.

“The objective of the district and its board has been to provide additional renewable energy to our customers in a way that is increasingly efficient and economical,” says OPPD President Fred Petersen. “The landfill gas facility has been very productive in a very short time in accomplishing that.”

OPPD underwrites the additional cost of producing electricity through renewable sources, which has helped the program to become successful. The district's marketing and education efforts also have increased project participation.

Outreach efforts were built around themes of “Turning Waste into Watts,” “Be a Green Power Partner with OPPD” and “OPPD Is Going Green with Energy.” Approximately 4,000 customers have chosen green power, representing almost 1.5 percent of OPPD's customers.

Industry Partner of the Year

Onyx Waste Services Inc.

Onyx Waste Services Inc., Milwaukee, has been developing the LFGE potential at its landfills since 1996. The company has five operating LFGE projects, totaling a power generation capability of 30 MWs. Onyx expects this capacity to double in the next few years.

After three and one-half years in development, the Onyx Oak Ridge Landfill, Ballwin, Mo., supplies LFG as a direct fuel to the DaimlerChrysler assembly plant boilers in Fenton, a suburb of St. Louis. Toro Energy, Dallas, helped to facilitate the contractual arrangements for Onyx's Oak Ridge Landfill Project. LFG is sent from the landfill through a 4.5-mile pipeline to DaimlerChrysler.

The project provides up to 70 percent of the plant's boiler steam load, according to Onyx. Two boilers use more than 2 million cubic feet per day of LFG. It is estimated that the landfill will supply LFG to the plant for 25 years.

DaimlerChrysler “is now realizing significant cost savings as well as environmental benefits,” says Denis Hagedorn, Daimler's chief power house plant engineer. Moreover, because of the environmental attributes of this project, DaimlerChrysler received the 2002 Governor's Award for Energy Efficiency and the 2002 National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM) Pollution Prevention Award from the St. Louis Chapter.

At the Glacier Ridge Landfill, Mayville, Wis., Onyx has developed a 2-MW project as part of Alliant Energy's “Second Nature” Renewable Energy Program. Alliant Energy, Madison, Wis., an energy holding company with regulated utility providers, serves more than 1.3 million customers in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Through the Second Nature program, Alliant's customers have a choice in supporting renewable energy sources when purchasing power. The electricity produced from this facility can support 2,000 to 4,000 homes.

Onyx also is working at the landfill with Waukesha Engine, Waukesha, Wis., to develop a new low-emission alternative engine-generator, and working with Alliant to install multiple microturbines. These initiatives will help to expand access to renewable energy, increase distributed energy generation sources and advance the production of less-polluting energy generation technologies, the company says.

The Glacier Ridge Landfill project supports the Wisconsin Governor's 2001 Strategic Energy Policy for the use of renewable energy and distributive energy sources.

Onyx's Zion Landfill, Zion, Ill., began fueling Houston-based Energy Development's (EDI) 5.4 MW facility in July 2002. EDI is a landfill gas energy company that has LFGE projects operating and under development in Australia, the United Kingdom, Greece, France, Taiwan, South Korea and the United States. At the Zion Landfill electricity is sold to power company Commonwealth Edison to supply energy for more than 5,400 homes.

Onyx also operates the Arbor Hills Landfill, Northville, Mich., which is generating 17.5 MWs of electricity. The company's Valley View Landfill, Decatur, Ill., generates 1.5 MWs of power.

In total, Onyx's LFGE projects “offset the use of more than 2.5 million barrels of oil annually, and we plan to explore opportunities at all of our landfills to hopefully double this number in the future,” says Bryan Johnson, Onyx project engineer.

State Partner of the Year

South Carolina Energy Office

South Carolina is a relative newcomer to LFGE; its first project went online in 2001. However, with the help of LMOP's State Partner, Sonny DuBose of the South Carolina Energy Office (SCEO), Columbia, the state has tried to bring the adage that “many hands make light work” to life.

The SCEO has been active in meeting with regulatory, non-governmental, private and public organizations to advance LFGE projects. For instance, to help develop LFGE projects, the Energy Office has worked with the: Department of Health and Environmental Control; Department of Transportation; Santee Cooper, which has the only LFGE project currently operating in the state; Waste Management Inc.; Allied Waste Industries, Scottsdale, Ariz., Ameresco, Framingham, Mass.; BMW, Greer, S.C., which is using LFG; and many county representatives.

Because of these efforts:

  • The Governor flipped the switch on the first LFGE project in Horry County, S.C., on Oct. 25, 2001, supplying green power in the state through Santee Cooper;

  • The largest LFGE conversion project in the state had its grand opening in April, with a pipeline running from Waste Management's Palmetto Landfill in Spartanburg, S.C., approximately 10 miles to supply energy to a BMW assembly plant; and

  • Three landfills are under contract for LFGE projects.

The combined environmental benefits of the Horry County/Santee Cooper green power program and the direct-use project with BMW/Waste Management is expected to be the equivalent of reducing the emissions from 130,000 cars, planting 180,000 acres of forest or preventing the use of 1.5 million barrels of oil, according to DuBose.

In 2002, South Carolina became the first state to obtain LMOP Endorser Agreements from the: State Chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Md.; South Carolina Chamber of Commerce; South Carolina Association of Realtors; South Carolina Association of Counties; Municipal Association of South Carolina; and South Carolina Association of Homebuilders. Also, during its 2002 session, the state legislature changed the classification of LFG to a renewable energy source, thanks to SCEO's efforts.

Project of the Year (Tie)

Arlington, Texas, Municipal Landfill

Oftentimes, the success of a LFGE project rests with a project developer's ability to build a coalition to see a project through to completion rather than technical feasibility alone. This was true for the alliance between the city of Arlington, city of Ft. Worth, a public utility, a nonprofit environmental foundation and a private renewable energy company.

The Arlington landfill is owned and operated by the city of Arlington, Texas, and accepts approximately 1,200 tons per day of municipal solid waste. In 1997, the city installed a gas collection system that has a LFG production rate of approximately 1,100 cubic feet per minute (cfm). Renovar Energy Corp., Midland, Texas, operates the LFG collection system. So when the city was ready to investigate LFGE, it turned to Renovar.

Renovar determined that the best project, though not the easiest, would be to transport the LFG approximately four miles to the city of Ft. Worth, Texas' Village Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). The WWTP processes approximately 144 million gallons of wastewater each day and generates significant amounts of methane gas during anaerobic digestion. The gas generates electricity and heats the digesters.

Ft. Worth had plans to install two new 5-MW gas turbine generators that would require more methane fuel than it could produce from its own digester gas. This would add to Ft. Worth's ongoing efforts to generate electricity and waste heat for its Village Creek Plant operations. Armed with this knowledge, Renovar met with Ft. Worth to see if the city could use Arlington's extra gas to fuel the new turbines. Renovar then negotiated the sale of LFG for use at the Village Creek Plant through Lone Star Energy Services Inc., an affiliate of the local utility.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in the project was that the only workable pipeline route went through the River Legacy Park, what the community described as “a 1,300-acre oasis on the Trinity River in the heart of north Arlington.”

So Renovar cooperated with Arlington's Parks and Recreation Department, the nonprofit River Legacy Foundation, Ft. Worth, and the independent state agency Trinity River Authority (TRA) to cross the park with minimum environmental impacts.

To prevent the pipeline from damaging trees, TRA allowed parts of an existing easement to be used. The boring under the Trinity River was extended hundreds of additional feet beyond the riverbank to avoid a recreational trail and several magnificent older trees. Both Ft. Worth and Arlington also provided adjacent rights of way. And Arlington's Neighborhood Services Department provided assistance by working through the maze of administrative agencies involved in the project.

Renovar also assisted the River Legacy Foundation in developing displays to educate the public about the LFGE project and its effects on the environment. The displays will be placed in the Park near a hiking trail along the Trinity River and at the River Legacy Living Science Center.

“Developing public/private partnerships are the key to more extensive renewable energy development in this country and globally,” says Larry Gilbert, Renovar president. “This project demonstrates that such partnerships can work.”

Project of the Year (Tie)

EnergyXChange Renewable Energy Project

A small, six-acre landfill with less than 500,000 tons of waste in place normally would not be the first pick for a LFGE project. However, the EnergyXChange Project in Burnsville, N.C., has opened people's minds.

To date, the project has:

  • Raised $1.5 million in grants and in-kind contributions;

  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 7,500 tons of methane over 10 years;

  • Installed two LFG systems;

  • Completed 10 horticultural apprenticeships;

  • Created two full-time, permanent jobs;

  • Started four new native plant businesses, two glass businesses and three pottery businesses; and

  • Encouraged 2,000-plus people to visit the LFGE project.

The EnergyXChange program developed in 1999 when the Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D), Sugar Grove, N.C., formed a task force of more than 140 individuals representing more than 40 agencies to discuss the potential uses for LFG from North Carolina's Yancey/Mitchell Counties landfill.

The task force identified two community needs:

  • To develop new cash crops for local farmers because burley tobacco was declining as their No. 1 cash crop; and

  • To form a business incubator for ‘limited resource’ potters and glass blowers who were being trained in nearby arts and crafts schools and wanted to start businesses. Handcrafts are a major industry and cultural heritage in the region.

The task force also helped Blue Ridge to identify LFGE project partners that included: Blue Ridge, which has expertise in agriculture and natural resources; Handmade in America, an Asheville, N.C.-based nonprofit specializing in the region's heritage handcrafts; and Maryland Community College, which focuses on education, horticulture and small business development. These three groups gave birth to EnergyXChange.

The EnergyXChange Renewable Energy Center consists of:

  • Four greenhouses and three shade structures to house Project Branch Out, which is designed to help the region profit from and protect native flora and plants. A fourth aquaponics greenhouse combines plant and fish production.

  • A craft complex of four buildings, including a glass studio, pottery studio, gallery and business/visitor center. The complex is incubating five glass and pottery businesses. After three years, the existing five businesses will “graduate” and make room for five new businesses.

EnergyXChange also has created an incentive for a similar LFGE project in Avery County, N.C., where a facility is under construction. LFG will be used to fuel a large greenhouse, a Regional Forestry and Horticultural Center and a microturbine demonstration project, as well as will heat a nearby airport hangar.

EnergyXChange has “shown the power of partnerships; drawn nationwide attention to landfill gas energy; spawned development in neighboring areas; and become a model for other projects,” says Stan Steury, RC&D project coordinator.

Chris Voell is a LMOP program manager in Washington, D.C.


Since 1995, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) has worked with more than 325 partners and assisted in the development of over 200 landfill gas-to-energy (LFGE) projects.

This year, greenhouse gas reductions from LFGE projects are equivalent to removing roughly 17 million metric tons of carbon, according to the agency. This reduction has the same annual climate benefit as:

  • Planting 17 million acres of forest;
  • Preventing the use of 130 million barrels of oil; or
  • Removing the carbon dioxide emissions of 12 million cars.
    Chris Voell