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It's not much to look at, but the landfill gas system installed at the Watauga County Landfill is saving money and providing electricity from methane gas that would have otherwise been wasted. File photo.

Originally published: 2013-02-05 12:48:54
Last modified: 2013-02-05 13:06:23

EPA awards landfill gas project

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has named the Watauga County Landfill Gas-to-Energy project a "Project of the Year," the sanitation department announced Tuesday.

Watauga County received the award for pioneering a cost-effective, small-scale electricity generation landfill gas project now being emulated by at least four other North Carolina counties.

The system generates electricity by burning methane-rich gas extracted from the landfill in two modified automotive engines. The county began selling power into the electric grid in late March 2012.

As of the end of December, the county had earned about $31,250 by saving nearly $13,500 on electricity bills at the landfill and by earning an additional $17,800 from the sale of electricity to Duke Energy and green power credits to N.C. Green Power, according to the county.

Over its life, the project is expected to make more than 75 percent of the landfill powered by renewable energy, to reduce electricity costs there by 80 percent and to provide the county an annual profit of up to $72,000.

"What began in 2005 as a voluntary effort by Watauga County to reduce methane emissions from the county’s closed landfill has become a landmark project for community collaboration in the development of cost-effective, small-scale, electricity generation solutions at closed landfills generating relatively small amounts of landfill gas,” said Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque. "Our closed landfill is now a community asset that we are very proud to have up and running thanks to the hard work of all the partners involved.”

The project also was recognized by the EPA for supporting innovative landfill gas research in collaboration with Appalachian State University's Energy Center; its extensive use of local businesses during development and construction; and for significant financial and environmental benefits to the county.

The project has facilitated a number of developments in landfill gas-to-energy technology and other environmental research endeavors conducted by ASU. The project has been widely publicized locally, regularly provides educational tours to school groups and visitors from as far away as Brazil and eastern Europe and is promoted as a model for the development of landfill gas energy projects around the state, country and world.

The award was presented at the 16th Annual Landfill Methane Outreach Program conference and project expo in Baltimore, Md.

Lisa Doty, county recycling manager, presented the award to county commissioners at their meeting Tuesday, along with words of thanks.

"The thanks lies with you," Chairman Nathan Miller said. "You have spearheaded this. You have kept with it through the ups and downs, and you have seen it through to fruition."

The sanitation department said the project would not have been possible without the support of:
— Watauga County
— Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation, which provided technical assistance, oversight of project and supplied all of the equipment for the connection to grid
— Appalachian Energy Center at Appalachian State University, which provided project management support, research, waste heat utilization design and negotiated the power purchase agreement with Duke Energy
— KSD Enterprises, which provided engine design and installation and technical assistance
— McGee Environmental, which provided landfill gas technical assistance and equipment installation
— Larry Greer Electric, which provided all of the interior and exterior electrical wiring
— T3 Automation, which provided switch gear design and installation
— Carlson Environmental Consultants, which provided the gas line installation and the connections to engines
— U.S. Buildings, which provided the building design and installation and donated the concrete pad for the building
— EPA’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program, which provided consultation and technical support for the partners

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