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Local Landfill Taps Garbage for Electricity

I can just picture it: some yokel with a shotgun chases his dinner out to the sewage treatment plant and ends up shooting up a vein of alternative energy— the next thing you know, old Jed’s a millionaire! Brown gold! Texas pee! In reality, shootin’ up a pocket of methane wouldn’t make you rich—it would just blow you sky high. But, when managed properly, that pile of filth—or rotting trash—is a potential gold mine of stinkiness-powered electricity. We noted in a previous post (“The G.O.R.E. Project: Electricity from Garbage, Landfills, and Cow Shit”)that “[i]f captured properly, methane can be used to fuel an internal combustion generator that will pump out watts of electricity for your home while burning off this harmful greenhouse gas.” Now, VPR reports, the Moretown Landfill in Vermont joins hundreds of others nationwide in tapping this not-so-natural resource for all it’s worth.
Vermonters are going to be getting more electricity from garbage. The Moretown Landfill is launching a program to make electricity from methane gas produced by the rotting trash. Officials say that once the project is online, it will be capable of producing enough electricity to power about 2,600 homes and keep about 21,600 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the environment.
(Read the whole article here.) Makes you wonder why all landfills aren’t capturing “waste” gas, doesn’t it? Read our previous posts on the potential applications of biogas here and here. I’ve pasted a snippet below. The following excerpt was adapted for the web from The Citizen-Powered Energy Handbook: Community Solutions to a Global Crisis by Greg Pahl.
There are many ways to capture and burn biogases to create biopower. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all large landfills to install collection systems to prevent landfill gas—mostly methane—from building up and causing an explosion, and to minimize its release into the atmosphere. The productive use of this landfill gas (LFG) to produce electricity is an increasingly popular strategy that makes a lot of sense, although it’s not really renewable, since the gas in any given landfill will eventually run out. One can also wonder whether large-scale landfills will survive in an energy-constrained future where virtually all resources will be reused or recycled out of necessity. Nevertheless, LFG still represents a useful biopower fuel source at the present time. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are more than 350 landfills nationwide that tap into this source of energy. Transforming what would otherwise be a waste product that contributes to global warming into green energy is also a way for utilities to shift their energy portfolios away from nuclear and fossil fuel generation.
On a smaller scale, methane gas from household rubbish can be harnessed as a source of natural gas for your stove, or—as noted above—burned to power an internal combustion generator for electricity. If you’re interested in exploiting your own offal, The Carbon-Free Home details how you can build your own bench-scale biogas digester. Just remember: methane gas is flammable and explosive, so be careful!


The 5 Rules of Lean Thinking

Are you ready to co-create the future? These 5 Rules of Lean Thinking are a useful tool as we set out to collectively invent a post-market future.Surviving the Future is a story drawn from the fertile ground of the late David Fleming’s extraordinary Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It. That […] Read More

Imagination, Purpose & Flexibility: Creating an Independent Farmstead – Q&A (part 1)

Twenty years ago, the land that authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty purchased and have come to name the Sow’s Ear was deemed “not suitable for agriculture” by the state of Ohio. Today, their family raises and grows 90% of their own food.Such self-sufficiency is largely the result of basing their farming practices around intensive pasture […] Read More

Using Permaculture Principles to Design Resilient Cities

The Permaculture City begins in the garden but takes what we have learned there and applies it to a much broader range of human experience; we’re not just gardening plants but people, neighborhoods, and even cultures.Author Toby Hemenway (Gaia’s Garden) lays out how permaculture design can help towndwellers solve the challenges of meeting our needs […] Read More

Overshoot, Collapse, and Creating a Better Future

In 2016, Earth Overshoot Day happened on August 8—the day when we’ve exhausted the planet’s resources for the year, and are essentially borrowing from future years to maintain our existence today.Perhaps you celebrated this day with a counter-solution: a vegetarian meal, telecommuted, or turned off the air conditioning. There’s a lot more you could be […] Read More

Save Energy & Money This Winter: Seal Up Your Drafty House

Unless you’ve taken special preventative precautions, it’s likely that on cold days much of your house’s heat pours out through your (closed) windows. Most houses—especially old houses—have drafty, uninsulated windows that do little to prevent heat from dumping out into the cold night. Even if your windows aren’t drafty, the expensive heat your furnace has […] Read More
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