Haywood turns a profit converting landfill methane into power

Haywood County is making a few hundred dollars a month converting methane gas emanating from the old county landfill on Francis Farm into electricity, and reselling it over the power grid.

“It has been a long process, but we are out there putting power back on the grid,” said David Francis, the Haywood County tax administrator and solid waste committee member, at a meeting of the county Board of Commissioners this week.

The county received a $1 million grant in early 2011 from the N.C. State Energy Office to turn the methane gas seeping out of the old landfill into an energy source and has been working since summer of that year to install the equipment and systems necessary to harness it.

Methane is a byproduct of decomposing trash and a volatile pollutant that contributes to global warming. The county would have been required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to somehow dissipate or otherwise use the gas even if it had not decided take on the alternative energy project.

Last year, the county drilled 21 gas extraction wells in the landfill to tap the alternative energy source. After the gas is converted to electricity, the power is sold to Haywood Electric Membership Corporation, which serves 25,000 customers in the county area, and is put on the electric grid.

Currently, the system is pulling methane from the landfill and putting it onto the power grid for six hours a day, Francis said. The county is closely monitoring the operations with the hopes of keeping it up-and-running 24 hours a day.

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