Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Garbage to become electricity

Bavarian landfill will harvest methane gas

By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WALTON - Tristate trash could be powering Kentucky air conditioners by the end of the summer. The state's first power plant that will transform gases from garbage into electricity is being built in Boone County.

The $4 million plant, at the Bavarian Waste Services landfill in Walton, will be built by East Kentucky Power Cooperative and will provide environmentally friendly power to at least four electric cooperatives.

"To me it's like the movie where they put garbage in the DeLorean and it takes off into the future,'' said Bavarian landfill affairs coordinator Rick Brueggemann, referring to the car in the movie Back to the Future.

  • Power source: Bavarian Waste Service in Walton. Landfill trash comes from mostly Northern Kentucky and Hamilton County, with some from Indiana.
Location: 660 acres on McCoy Fork Road in Walton
From Landfill to Light Switch: East Kentucky Power Cooperative is an energy wholesaler that sells electricity to 16 Kentucky rural electric cooperatives.
  Four of those cooperatives will sell the green power produced by Bavarian and the other plants. One of the four, Owen Electric Cooperative, supplies electricity to nine Northern Kentucky counties.
Capacity: A landfill with 1 million tons of waste can support an 800-kilowatt to 1-megawatt generation project.
  Source: EPA and Bavarian Waste Services
Bavarian is installing a system of pipes that will collect methane gas from the landfill. The collection system will cost between $1 and $1.5 million, an expense the company doesn't expect to get back for about 15 years, Brueggemann said.

If the landfill produces as much gas as Bavarian thinks it will, the electricity it generates could power 3,500 households a day, Brueggemann said.

Methane gas occurs naturally when trash decomposes in a landfill; if it's not used, the gas would be released into the air.

The gas is about 50 percent methane, which is mostly natural gas and about 50 percent carbon dioxide, with small amounts of nitrogen and oxygen, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The green power will cost consumers more than regular power, $2.75 more per month for each 100-kilowatt block purchased.

East Kentucky Power will build three so-called "green power" plants including the Bavarian plant in Boone County. The others will be in Laurel and Greenup counties. The Kentucky Public Service Commission granted approval for the three plants this month.

"We are a very environmentally conscious company, to us it just makes sense,'' said Jerry McDonald, an East Kentucky Power spokesman.

According to the EPA, a landfill can continue to produce gasses for 20 years after it is closed.

The Bavarian plant in Boone and the Greenup County plant are designed to produce up to 3.2 megawatts per year of electricity. The Laurel County plant will produce 4 megawatts.

According to the EPA, the greenhouse gas reduction benefit of a typical 5 megawatt "green power" plant of this type is equivalent to planting more than 80,000 acres of forest per year or removing the annual emissions from more than 60,000 cars.

Winchester-based East Kentucky Power sells electricity to 16 cooperatives. Four cooperatives including Owen Electric, which serves nine northern Kentucky counties, will offer the green power produced from Bavarian through the EnviroWatts program, McDonald said.

The EnviroWatts program began after Toyota asked for green power for its North American headquarters in Erlanger.

E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com

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