Couldn’t it be cool if Robeson County could profit off a naturally occurring gas that is produced by decomposing organic material and use that money to defray future costs at the landfill for expansion and maintenance that would otherwise be subsidized by county residents and, at the same time, reduce dirty air?
Robeson County’s landfill is among a handful in the state that is turning trash into cash by trapping methane gas, which happens to be deadly and contributes to global warming, and putting it to work.
Methane gas is produced when organic material such as food and human waste breaks down. An elaborate system of vertical wells and piping at the county landfill harvests the gas, keeping it from polluting — and that is the correct word — the air we breathe.
For a couple of years the county, by preventing the methane gas from reaching the atmosphere by burning it off, has been eligible to sell carbon credits and renewable energy credits to companies that produce greenhouse gases by burning fossil fuels. But a second story was added to that profit center recently when the county began using the methane gas to produce energy that is ultimately being bought by Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation and then resold.
The county, during the next fiscal year, expects to earn about $200,000 by selling carbon and renewable energy credits, and about $500,000 from the sale of energy. The county also gets to double dip: The same methane gas that earns carbon and energy credits also is used to produce energy.
The system produced two jobs, for technicians, and there is the possibility of adding a second generator at the landfill that would produce additional energy — and cash.
According to county officials, the system was financed with a $1 million grant and about $425,000 of county money, but it’s clear that the investment is sound and the payoff is continuing.
Credit Steve Edge, the director of Solid Waste for the county, with selling the idea of producing energy with the methane to the county Board of Commissioners and that board with buying it.
It’s a win-win-win situation as methane gas is captured before it goes into the atmosphere, energy is produced without the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal, and the county profits, saving county residents money in taxes and landfill tipping fees.
Yep, that’s pretty cool.