Environmental Protection

Methane Power Opens N.C. Landfill Gas-to-Energy Plant

North Carolina's renewable energy production initiatives recently received a boost with the formal opening of a new landfill gas-to-energy plant in Durham, the state's fourth largest city.

Electricity generated by the Durham landfill energy plant is being sold to Duke Energy Carolinas under a power purchase agreement.

Built by the landfill gas project developer Methane Power Inc., the energy plant is powered by three of GE's containerized JGC 320 Jenbacher landfill gas engines. GE's Jenbacher landfill gas engines are generating 3.17 megawatts of renewable electricity for the regional grid by using the landfill's methane gas, which is created by the decomposition of municipal solid waste. The facility is generating enough energy to support about 1,800 North Carolina homes.

North Carolina is one of 27 states with a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which requires utilities to produce a certain percentage of electricity from renewable sources, including biogas. North Carolina's RPS requires that by 2021, utilities must meet 12.5 percent of customers' energy needs through energy efficiency savings or renewable energy production.

The state also has a green power program that offers incentives for renewable energy projects. The federal government also is considering adoption of national RPS legislation to encourage the production of more renewable energy.

"We believe that by enabling municipalities to tap into their unused, onsite landfill gas resources to generate electricity, we are supporting local green job development while helping utilities meet their regional renewable energy production requirements," said James Voss, president and chief executive officer of Methane Power.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Previously, the Durham landfill's methane would be flared off, but by capturing and using the gas in the Jenbacher engines to generate electricity, the city is able to reduce the landfill's site emissions. Also, increasing the production of renewable energy for the grid helps offset the use of fossil fuels traditionally used by utilities for baseload power generation.

Commissioned in October 2009, the Durham landfill gas project is the first of eight new U.S. landfill gas plants that Methane Power plans to develop.

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