Garbage generates electricity - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Garbage generates electricity

County, KEC unveil new energy plant

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Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:15 am

Since the Fighting Creek Landfill opened in 1993, most of what has been lodged in the soil has little use left.

But Kootenai County and Kootenai Electric Cooperative revealed on Wednesday that they are no longer letting all that waste go to waste.

The two entities welcomed the public all day to tour a new multi-million dollar energy plant at the landfill, where gas emitted from garbage is channeled to produce electricity for nearby homes.

"We had a renewable energy source that was going to waste. That's what it boils down to," said county Solid Waste Director Roger Saterfiel. "Now it's not being wasted."

Several years in the planning, the brick plant humming faintly on Wednesday is the product of a partnership between the county and the utility.

Kootenai County has contracted to lease KEC the land for the facility, and to sell the utility methane gas produced by organic material from the landfill. KEC then uses the emissions to create electricity at the plant, currently powering 900 homes.

It will light up 1,800, once the second of the plant's two engines is running.

"As soon as they fired it up, it's revenue for the county," Saterfiel said, adding that the county expects to bring in $4.5 million over the next 20 years by selling the gas.

The two entities will also bring in dollars by selling renewable energy credits they receive for providing a renewable energy source. Other energy producers purchase the credits to meet clean energy standards.

The facility is a milestone for KEC, said General Manager Doug Elliott.

The utility funded the $6.5 million plant with Clean Renewable Energy Bonds, he said, which basically provide interest-free loans for energy projects.

"This is the first generator facility we've constructed and operated," Elliott said. "It's been a steep learning curve, but a valuable one."

The production of electricity at the plant, running since March, is a beautiful dance of garbage and physics.

The landfill's part is easy. The junk goes about its usual cycle of decomposition, rotting and releasing methane gas. That methane, potentially a harmful greenhouse gas, is sucked into a pipeline system.

Solid Waste has long used the gas to fuel the evaporation of leachate, or garbage water. Excess methane was burned off in flares.

Now, the leftover gas is recycled, piped to the energy plant to power one of the engines for the electricity generator.

Both engines will run eventually, Saterfiel said, when the county finds an alternative to evaporating leachate and sells all of its methane to KEC.

"In seven to eight years, we'll be talking about a third engine," Saterfiel said.

Members of the public were allowed to peer up close at the engine roaring inside the facility, as well as outdoor pipelines that smelled of the sulfur-like methane.

Joyce Torgerson, who lives south of the Mica Grange, was intrigued to learn she could help by throwing away organic material like food scraps.

"It's something everyone can think about and start doing," Torgerson said.

She was impressed, she said, that the project "puts things people throw away into good use, to further our resources and help the resources of the land."

Commissioner Jai Nelson, who wielded the oversized scissors at Wednesday morning's ribbon cutting ceremony, said she is proud of the project.

"We're getting some power on the grid, and some revenue back to Kootenai County," she said.

Former commissioner Rick Currie, who had been in office when the county signed the contract with KEC, was smiling after he toured the facility.

"There are so many positives," Currie said. "This came to being because of the staff at Kootenai County Solid Waste. They can take full responsibility."

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  • mediaprizm posted at 4:34 am on Mon, Sep 30, 2013.

    mediaprizm Posts: 48

    Power On Connections is the UK’s leading Independent Connections Provider (ICP), offering a turnkey solution for the design, build and delivery of HV & LV electrical connections to Commercial, Industrial, Retail and City Living Developments, with a safety first approach.

  • Joseph Jr posted at 7:45 am on Sat, Jun 2, 2012.

    Joseph Jr Posts: 512

    Thanks LakeLvr

    I too read the post twice, maybe three times.

  • Joseph Jr posted at 7:50 pm on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    Joseph Jr Posts: 512

    Plastic/glass/paper do not produce methane...ever.

    Have you ever smelled methane on a beach? Do a little research, and learn what glass is made from.

    Plastic is melted down and made into new products as it does not decompose.

    Metal also does not decompose readily or produce methane.

    Seriously? There are people who want to intentionally fill land with garbage that is either recyclable or can be turned into fuel?

  • Lakelvr posted at 1:16 pm on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    Lakelvr Posts: 30

    Glass does not decompose. Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose. And as stated before WILL NOT produce methane. Recycling is far more efficient and cost beneficial for many items.

    I am with Joseph...I actually thought your first post was a I'm just scared at the level of ignorance!

  • aayupp posted at 12:16 pm on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    aayupp Posts: 315

    joe jr- glass-plastic -paper-all organic in origin. correct? what is garbage anyways?? wasteland meaning like Lewis & Clark referred to it when they first saw it- godforsaken wasteland.

  • petand posted at 11:23 am on Fri, Jun 1, 2012.

    petand Posts: 170

    Pretty good deal for Kootenai County and good use of a previously wasted resource.

    Perhaps a questionable good deal for KEC members since management and the KEC BOD entered into a construction agreement with some pretty expensive associated costs without having a contract for the sale of the plants output, a fact questioned by BPA personnel.

    Definitely a good deal for a couple of ex-KEC BOD members who voted to approve the project moving forward and then resigned and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees. Can you spell conflict of interest? Of course no one is or will ever talk about that...

  • Joseph Jr posted at 7:22 pm on Thu, May 31, 2012.

    Joseph Jr Posts: 512

    sayupp: Would you please describe "un used wasteland" to me?

    Do you mean land which has not been developed?

    Do you realize that recyclables such as glass, plastics and paper do not generate methane?

    It's materials that rapidly decompose, which produce methane gas.

    Please...tell me you are joking.

  • aayupp posted at 12:03 pm on Thu, May 31, 2012.

    aayupp Posts: 315

    congrats to you all-finally good news- i propose to immediatley stop all recycling efforts and start developing larger and larger landfills. we have so much un used wasteland in this country (have you ever been to eastern mt or soutern wyoming???-yuck) that we send all of our waste esp plastic bags. STOP RECLYLING NOW AND IMPROVE OUR ENERGY GENERATING CAPABILITY.

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