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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Waste Management converts gas from trash into electricity

From an article by Joe Taschler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Germantown — The gas given off by rotting garbage is suddenly chic.

As interest in renewable fuels grows in the United States, old banana peels, rotten meat and moldy fruit are decomposing in landfills in a process that creates combustible gas used to generate electricity, heat buildings and power vehicles.

To be sure, there isn't enough landfill gas to satisfy the nation's or even the state's energy demands, but its use is increasing as the fuel solidifies its place in the growing kaleidoscope of alternative energy sources.

In metro Milwaukee, Waste Management Inc. is expanding electricity-generating capacity, adding a fourth landfill gas-powered turbine to its power plant in Germantown. The newest turbine is scheduled to begin producing electricity in early June.

The gas is collected from the company's landfill sites in Germantown and Menomonee Falls. Once all four turbines are operating, they will provide enough electricity to power about 10,000 households, Waste Management says.

"People don't realize that you can power 10,000 homes with what we're doing here," said Dale Stark, Waste Management's power plant manager at the Germantown site.

Nationwide, the number of landfill gas projects has grown to 510, up from 136 in 1995, the first year for which the Environmental Protection Agency began compiling such data. The projects generate more than 12 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and deliver about 100 billion cubic feet of landfill gas to end users or pipelines per year.

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