That bag of trash you’re about to toss could soon power someone’s home.
Southern Idaho Solid Waste is looking to build a methane-fueled generator at Milner Butte Landfill, which was established in the early 1990s in southern Cassia County and houses trash tossed by residents of seven south-central Idaho counties.
A methane-gas collection system came online in September and is currently feeding data to Josh Bartlome, the environmental specialist conducting the system’s initial testing. The landfill’s methane gas currently flows at between 315 and 330 standard cubic feet per minute, more than enough to support a generator in the future, Bartlome said.
The landfill’s new system is largely the result of federal regulations, Bartlome said. First, it had to be lined. Then other rules had to be met, including a collection and control system for the methane gas once the site met certain criteria.
Southern Idaho Solid Waste planned ahead, installing horizontal gas wells at the site over time.
“As we’ve been growing, we’ve been building at the same time,” Bartlome said.
When an emissions test last year found that the site would soon require the collection system, officials were prepared. Workers started to hook everything together in May, and the gas started flowing in September.
Right now, that gas is being burned off with a flare, something that does generate greenhouse-gas credits, Bartlome said. He reviews data every day from all aspects of the setup to make sure everything’s working as it should.
Milner Butte would become only the second landfill in Idaho to generate power from methane gas and sell it back to a utility. The only landfill that currently has such a sales agreement is the one run by Ada County, said Gene Fadness, spokesman for the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.
There, county officials partnered with a private company four years ago to set up generators now supplying 3.2 megawatts to Idaho Power Co. – enough to power 2,400 homes. The company supplied and owns the generators and buys the gas from the county, paying about $225,000 a year, said Ted Hutchinson, Ada County’s landfill manager. The arrangement works well enough that the county is currently drilling more gas wells that the company might then expand to include.
Milner Butte operators haven’t decided yet what to do with anything they generate, Bartlome said – sell it, provide it to member counties or something else altogether. But things certainly look promising.
“If everything stays as it is, we’re going to be ahead of schedule,” Bartlome said.
Nate Poppino, Magic Valley Times-News – http://www.magicvalley.com/news/local/article_0d72324c-cdc2-11de-87fb-001cc4c03286.html