Alternative energy source readily available

In one Oregon community the local landfill’s methane will be used to generate electricity.

“By this time next year, Riverbend Landfill expects to be converting landfill gas, a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic matter, into electrical energy under contract with McMinnville Water & Light.

It expects to produce enough to supply 2,500 homes — about one quarter of all the homes in McMinnville.

The power plant, being developed by Riverbend’s Texas-based parent firm Waste Management at a cost of $10 million, will turn a gas that is currently collected at significant expense and simply burned off into a valuable commodity. In the process, it will go a long way toward helping Water & Light meet a mandate that 10 percent of its power come from renewable sources by 2025.

Landfill gas consists of methane and carbon dioxide in roughly equal proportions, with methane typically predominating slightly. Officials have long harbored visions of using it to produce electricity, but only recently have advances in technology made that financially feasible, according to Riverbend Manager George Duvendack.

The power plant will be housed in a cement-block building that Waste Management will install at the base of a waste cell. The same collection of high-density polyethyline pipes and wells already in place and being used to transport the gas to the 1,600-degree furnace will instead feed the new plant.

The $10 million plant will feature six gas-fired turbines, five of which will operate initially.

The utility has agreed to purchase the plant’s projected three-megawatt annual output for the next 10 years, with an option to extend for another 10 years. That will satisfy about a quarter of its mandated renewable energy needs.

Water & Light will pay Riverbend about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour — enough to keep a 100-watt light bulb going for 10 hours — according to General Manager Paul Elias.”

5 cents a kilowatt-hour is comparable in cost to electricity generated from traditional sources.

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