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Friday, 28 January 2011 14:23

Landfill methane to heat Haywood school bus garage: County lands $1 million grant for the project

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Haywood County has landed a $1 million grant to turn the methane pouring off a no-longer-used landfill into energy.

The money comes from the N.C. State Energy Office as a part of their Energy Efficiency and Conservation Plan, which offers funding for local projects aimed at energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy conservation in transportation and greenhouse gas recovery projects like the one pitched by Haywood. The $20.9 million pool of money is part of the federal government’s stimulus package.

The county tried for funding in the grant’s first round last year, but was turned down. When the state announced it would open up a second round of applications, county officials resubmitted, this time with much better results.

According to David Francis, Haywood County tax administrator and solid waste committee member, getting such a large chunk of the change was a very lucky break for the county.

“We got lucky,” said Francis. “There was only $2.5 million out there in the second round.”

The funds will go to a project already on the county’s agenda – reclamation of the methane currently rising off the county’s closed Francis Farm landfill, located on the outskirts of Waynesville. Twenty-one methane vents were recently installed at the landfill to direct the escaping gas and point it skyward, instead of horizontally, where it was killing off plants.

Since methane takes the path of least resistance, steps had to be taken to direct the gas and protect the surrounding landscape, Francis said.

Methane is a byproduct of decomposing trash. The volatile pollutant contributes to global warming, so capturing it in some way is far better for the environment than merely releasing it into the air. Under this plan, it would be directed through pipelines connecting the 21 vents and hopefully pumped to the county’s nearby school bus garage, where it will either provide direct heat or power a generator to heat the facility.

Francis said the award is a real boon to the cleanup efforts at Francis Farm, which were being funded out of the county’s pocket. Past commissioners had not set aside funds to properly mothball the old landfill, which requires a measure of environmental remediation.

“This was part of the plan all along to do this,” said Francis. “How this grant helps us is it gives us the funds to do this.”

County Manager Marty Stamey echoed Francis’ sentiments, saying that the grant would provide a needed measure of relief to the county’s budget.

Now, the county will only pitch in $123,000 to complete the project, plus the savings gained through cutting heating costs at the bus garage.

“It’s one of the best grants we’ve ever gotten,” said Stamey.

The system is planned to be in place by Dec. 31.

Jackson County began capturing the methane from its closed-down landfill several years ago. There, energy from the methane is used to heat greenhouses and fuel blacksmith and glassblowing operations. Artists and growers rent studio and greenhouse space at the Green Energy Park, but the project has continued to run a deficit, causing Jackson's commissioners to question its viability.

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