ST. PAULS — As he prepares to retire Wednesday as Robeson County’s director of solid waste, Steve Edge is leaving the county with a landfill that serves as a model for others across the state.
“I don’t know of anything else we can possibly do to improve our operations, except possibly find an alternative to cut the cost of our leachate disposal,” he said. “And that is something that is being worked on now.”
Edge, the county’s solid waste director for the past 12 years, is credited with creating a methane gas power generating system at the landfill that when working at full capacity can generate about $1.2 million annually in electricity sales. The landfill has a life expectancy of at least another generation.
“The person hasn’t been born yet who will close that landfill,” he said.
Edge is leaving his hand print on disposal compactor sites scattered throughout the county — sites that are costing the county $500,000 less annually to operate than when he started as director. Savings at the disposal compactor sites include closing 16 of 36 sites and manning the remaining 20 with 80 part-time employees.
A native of Wagram, Edge served nine years as a Scotland County law enforcement officer before becoming in charge of operating Scotland County’s landfill. He then became Scotland County’s Public Works Department director, a position he held for 14 years before coming to Robeson County.
“Coming to Robeson County was the best thing that ever happened to me in my career,” Edge said. “It’s been a rewarding position … It’s been a good ride. I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather end my career.”
Edge calls the landfill at St. Pauls an asset to the county if used “properly,” an asset that he contends can continually generate significant revenue.
“I’ve always run the landfill as a business,” he said. “I’ve tried to make more revenue than is just generated through tipping fees.”
Earlier this week, during a meeting of the county commissioners, Edge was presented the first ever lifetime achievement award from Appalachian State University’s Energy Center. The award was in recognition of his work with the development and installation of the methane gas power generating system.
“We use Robeson County as a model for other counties that we are working with,” said Stan Steury, the center’s landfill gas manager. “When told of planning or problems with operating their systems we tell them to go see over here in Robeson County what is being done. It’s pretty impressive.”
Steury credits Edge with the success of the $1.4 million system, $1 million of which was paid for with a grant from North Carolina’s Golden Leaf Foundation.
“Steve found a way in over the last five years to make over $2 million for the county from the sales of electricity,” he said. “And that’s from a gas that is going to just go into the atmosphere if not captured.”
Methane gas from the landfill has been used to produce electricity since January 2012. That year revenues from the sale of electricity and renewable energy credits totaled more than $600,000, Edge said. Since than, revenue generated from sales of electricity that currently power about 2,000 homes has stayed fairly constant, according to Edge.
In 2015, a second generator was added. It is expected that when both methane powered generators run continuously throughout a year with no down time that about $1.2 million in revenue will come to the county through the sale of electricity, Edge said. That has not yet happened.
“I have never shied away from new technology where it’s related to power generation or landfill operation,” Edge said. “I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel. If the technology is there lets use it.”
Although he plans to spend December, the first month of his retirement, relaxing, Edge said that he will probably operate a consulting business part-time.
“I’ve had some engineers ask me to be a consultant,” he said. “I don’t want to work full-time, but I might on a part-time basis.”
Edge is reluctant to take all of the credit for accomplishments at the landfill.
“It’s a team effort,” he said. “What we have accomplished here could not have been possible without the support of the county commissioners and the county manager.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.