Municipal solid waste landfills represent a large source of human-related methane emissions. Landfill gas is created as the solid waste decomposes in the landfill. These emissions present a win/win opportunity to capture and use the methane as an energy source. Landfill gas utilization projects involve citizens, nonprofit organizations, local governments and industry in sustainable community planning and create partnerships. It is estimated that a landfill gas energy project will capture roughly 60 to 90 percent of the methane emitted from the landfill, depending on system design and effectiveness.
Converting Landfill Gas to Energy
Landfill gas, when not properly controlled and captured, can migrate into groundwater and the atmosphere. This migration can result in potential hazardous conditions and cause odor and other nuisance problems. There are four ways to utilize landfill gas as an energy source:
- Electricity generation using internal combustion engines, turbines, micro-turbines and fuel cells.
- Direct use in a boiler, kiln, dryer or other thermal application to offset the use of another fuel.
- Cogeneration or using the landfill gas to generate both electricity and thermal energy in the form of steam or hot water.
- Use as an alternative fuel such as in vehicles in the form of compressed natural gas or liquefied natural gas.
Benefits of Landfill Gas to Energy
There are many reasons why communities, landfill owners, utilities and stakeholder organizations are interested in developing landfill gas to energy projects. These projects:
- Reduce the amount of methane emitted; methane is more than 21 times stronger than CO2 in terms of greenhouse gas impacts.
- Result in a renewable energy source.
- Improve local air quality.
- Support sustainable community development.
- Create revenues and cost savings.
- Provide a source of energy for emergency operations.
Reduction in Compliance Costs
Under the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, landfills are required to obtain permits for both the operation of the landfill itself and the control and combustion of the gases. The Kentucky Division for Air Quality and the Division of Waste Management are the delegated state agencies in terms of regulating landfills and landfill gas control. Landfill gas energy recovery gives landfill owners the opportunity to reduce the costs associated with regulatory compliance by turning pollution into a valuable community resource.
Kentucky Landfill Gas to Energy Map
The Kentucky Landfill Gas to Energy map is from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) Landfill/Project database. Information in the database is compiled from a variety of sources by voluntary submittal, is updated periodically, and can change. LMOP does not guarantee the validity of the data. LMOP’s Project Expo sites are landfills that have been featured at LMOP annual conferences in the past for the purpose of identifying project partners for the development of a landfill gas energy projects.
For More Information on Kentucky Projects
Since 2003, Eastern Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC), through their EnviroWatts program, has been a leader in landfill gas to energy projects in Kentucky. EKPC has a total of six operating projects. For more information, visit http://www.envirowattsky.com/plants.html
Waste Management’s Outer Loop landfill collects enough gas to heat approximately 15,000 homes. In 2003, the landfill was awarded the Environmental Excellence Award for Industrial Environmental Leadership by the Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet and won the 2005 Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) Landfill Excellence Award. For more information, visit http://www.wm.com/sustainability/bioreactor-landfills.jsp.
In 2014, Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Kentucky’s Georgetown facility announced a partnership with Waste Services of the Bluegrass to develop a landfill gas to energy project. Construction will begin in May and be completed by early 2015. Toyota estimates the landfill gas will supply enough power annually for the production of 10,000 vehicles.
The city of Glasgow exemplifies a local government example of how landfill gas to energy projects can serve multiple purposes. Announced in 2014, the city of Glasgow partnered with Farmers Rural Electric and Eastern Kentucky Power Cooperative to convert the landfill gas to energy while providing an emergency back-up source of electricity for the city’s wastewater treatment plant.