Durham's Green Energy

Thanks to a partnership between Duke Energy Carolinas and Methane Power, Inc., Durham is latest municipality to benefit from the Landfill Gas-to-Energy Green Power Project.

 The program harnesses its landfill gas, which is largely methane, to produce renewable energy. Such gas is created when organic materials in large landfills decompose. This greenhouse gas, if released, is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Using three 20-cylinder engines, Durham's project uses the gas produced at the city's closed landfill and converts it into electricity. Using the gas to produce electricity is not only cost effective, but also eliminates this potent gas that otherwise is a major contributor to global warming. Ultimately, this project will generate approximately three megawatts of electricity, which is equivalent to powering about 1,900 average-sized homes annually.

"Not only does this project support Durham's green energy efforts by converting landfill gas into renewable energy, it also provides a financial benefit to our taxpayers by offsetting the costs of the required post-closure landfill monitoring," said Mayor, Bill Bell. "This is just another example of how Durham is leading the way in protecting and preserving our community's natural environment."

Under the terms of the partnership, Duke Energy will purchase the renewable energy certificates and three megawatts of renewable energy generated at the landfill.

According to Lewis Gay, vice president of Methane Power, landfill gas is one of the most economical renewable options available in North Carolina and it uses proven technology.

"Methane Power is pleased to be a part of this project working with the innovative leadership of the City of Durham and Duke Energy Carolinas," said Gay. "We are dedicated to providing North Carolina with as much renewable energy as possible from landfill gas."  Durham was already burning methane to keep it out of the atmosphere, but the engines provide "a double benefit of getting rid of methane and getting rid of the coal burning as well," said Durham sustainability coordinator Tobin Freid, who oversees the city and county's gas emissions reduction efforts.

The project will use about 6,000 tons of gas from the landfill, said Chris Godlove with the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy's Landfill Methane Outreach Program.
Durham 's project follows a similar effort in Orange County. UNC-Chapel Hill signed a contract with Orange County in February to use methane gas from the county landfill to power the future Carolina North satellite campus. That project is in the design phase, said Raymond DuBose, the university's director of energy services. Expected completion is by mid-2011.

Durham city and county officials hope to reduce government greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and business and residential emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

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