Customers of Seattle City Light recently started using power generated in part from their own rotting trash. It’s part of the city-owned utility’s push for more renewable energy.
Seattle residents recycle about half of their waste. The rest, about 400,000 tons a year, gets put on trains and shipped to a massive landfill in north-central Oregon. Waste Management, the company that runs the Columbia Ridge landfill, collects the methane gas produced as garbage decomposes and burns it to generate electricity. Waste Management’s Dean Kattler says that closes an energy loop.
“The waste collected in the city of Seattle goes to our Columbia Ridge landfill, and now the energy produced at the landfill comes right back to the city of Seattle.”
Seattle City Light is buying the entire output of the plant, enough to power more than 5,600 homes. That’s a small down payment on the new renewable power the utility has to find over the next decade. Under an initiative passed by Washington voters in 2006, most utilities have to get at least 15 percent of their juice from renewables by 2020.