700 MW of Electricity to Come from Landfill Gas

Waste Management (WM) announced on Wednesday an initiative to expand its roster of landfill gas to energy (LFGTE) facilities, resulting in another 60 renewable energy facilities over the next five years.

Combined with its existing 103 LFGTE facilities, WM will generate more than 700 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy. Throughout the rest of 2007, WM plans to bring 10 LFGTE facilities online and begin development on an additional 10 new sites.

LFGTE projects are especially valuable to utilities because they provide dependable baseload power. A typical facility will run about 95 percent of the time, making it a good fit with intermittent renewables such as wind and solar.

Landfill gas, produced when microorganisms break down organic material in the landfill, is comprised of approximately 50-60 percent methane and 40-50 percent carbon dioxide. At most landfills in the U.S., these greenhouse gases are simply burned off, or “flared.”

Waste Management sites that have LFGTE facilities will collect the methane and use it to fuel onsite engines or turbines, generating electricity to power surrounding homes and neighborhoods while creating a new revenue stream for the landfills. By building LFGTE facilities, Waste Management reduces greenhouse gases by offsetting the use of fossil fuel at the utility power plants.

“This initiative is a major step in Waste Management’s ongoing efforts to implement sustainable business practices across the company,” said Paul Pabor, vice president of renewable energy at WM. “Landfill gas to energy projects provide an important contribution to the country’s renewable energy portfolio.”

The LFGTE initiative will add 230 MW of electricity generation to the grid. Waste Management’s decision to construct more facilities was due in large part to the demand for more clean energy set by state renewable portfolio standards, said Pabor.

Waste Management, which designed and operated its first LFGTE facility in the U.S. more than 20 years ago, currently has 281 landfills in operation. The company intends to expand its waste-based renewable power generation across the country, and is exploring partnerships to develop its energy technology at other private and municipal landfills.

“Landfill gas is part of the solution,” said Pabor. “There are a finite amount of landfills, but we do fill a niche in renewable energy. When we build out these plants in the next five years…we’ll have enough for about 700 MW, which is a good-sized fossil fuel plant.”

As part of its initiative, in 2007 Waste Management plans to commission LFGTE projects at landfills in Texas, Virginia, New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
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