Douglas County commissioners decided Wednesday to continue negotiations with a company wanting to produce electricity from methane gas at the county landfill.
Commissioners Susan Morgan, Doug Robertson and Joe Laurance approved a 90-day extension of an exploratory contract with Massachusetts-based Ameresco.
An impasse over the county’s desire to control its garbage destiny had threatened to nix a deal to have Ameresco construct a 1-megawatt plant to harness energy from methane, a byproduct of rotting garbage.
The commissioners want to reserve the option to ship a portion of its garbage south to the Dry Creek landfill outside Medford as a way to relieve pressure on the Douglas County Landfill south of Roseburg.
Ameresco wants to ensure an adequate supply of methane from decomposed garbage to meet its electricity production estimates and to offset the $4 million it would spend to construct the plant at the landfill.
At current disposal rates, the landfill is expected to fill up within the next 11 years. When it quits operating, it could cost up to $33 million to meet state health and safety closure requirements.
Ameresco has offered the county $1 million in royalties over a 20-year period from electricity produced by the plant, which would be sold to Pacific Power.
The county, Robertson said, is willing to provide Ameresco with whatever methane is produced from the garbage already disposed of at the landfill. However, it wants to have the flexibility to take some of its trash to another facility, he said.
“We are not willing to enter into any kind of agreement that marginalizes what the county may or may not do with their landfill in the future,” Robertson said.
Commissioner Joe Laurance said the county also wanted to reserve its options in case new technology allowed the county down the road to process garbage in a different way. Ameresco official Jim Bier told the commissioners he didn’t see that kind of technology on the horizon anytime soon, but said his company’s process was “shovel-ready” and could provide an immediate benefit to the county.
“I want to remind you guys that Ameresco is here because Douglas County advertised their landfill at a national convention in Washington, D.C., about three years ago and after that issued a (request for proposals). So I’m not a snake oil salesman here trying to sell you something that you didn’t ask for,” Bier said, in urging commissioners not to terminate the company’s preliminary contract.
Thad Roth, an official with the Energy Trust of Oregon, told the commissioners that his organization has pledged a $1.2 million incentive to Ameresco to help offset the difference between the cost of generating electricity and current market rates.
The Energy Trust is funded by Oregon utility customers served by Pacific Power, Portland General Electric, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas. It invests in efficient technologies and renewable resources meant to save money and protect the environment.
“We think this is a strong project for its size,” Roth said.
John Sowell, The News-Review – http://www.nrtoday.com/article/20090903/NEWS/909039977/1063/NEWS&ParentProfile=1055