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DoD turns to landfill gas to meet renewable energy goal

Aug. 17, 2012 - 01:08PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments
(Doyon Utilities / Business Wire)

At Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, the military is turning landfill gas into electricity as part of efforts to reach its renewable energy goals.

The $26 million project will pipe methane from the Anchorage regional landfill and process it at a refinery on the installation — producing about 6.5 megawatts of power. One megawatt is enough to power 300 homes, according to the Energy Department.

The energy will account for 80 percent of the installation’s energy use in the summer and 55 percent in the winter and will save the Army and Air Force $32 million over the 20-year contract, according to the services.

Dan Gavora, CEO of Doyon Utilities, which manages energy use at 11 military installations, said in a statement that the first-of-its-kind project in Alaska will help the military move closer to its renewable energy goals.

He also said the Anchorage regional landfill is only one-third full, which means energy production can continue to grow.

As the Defense Department races to meet renewable energy mandates, it is greatly expanding its use of waste-to-energy projects.

By 2013, agencies must get 7.5 percent of their facilities’ energy needs from renewable sources.

DoD has a lot of garbage to spare — it operates more than 100 landfills on its installations, according to the department.

DoD estimates it could generate 107,441 kilowatts of electricity from waste in its landfills.

The Environmental Security Technology Certification Program — an energy testing program at DoD — is testing a new way to generate electricity from much smaller amounts of methane. A microturbine will deliver about 250 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power 250 homes.

Vernon Duck, energy manager at Fort Benning, Ga., said in a statement the pilot project there will last through the end of this year. Program officials then will decide if it is a success based on whether the cost of the energy is competitive with market rates.

If the project is successful, officials will look to expand the program across the Defense Department.

The Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany, Ga., in September began drawing energy from a nearby landfill.

Fred Broome, director of the installation and environment division at the installation, said in a statement the 1.9-megawatt project accounts for 20 percent of its energy needs.

But he said the installation is hoping to fund another turbine and double its production of landfill gas energy by the end of the year.

The goal would be to become energy self-sufficient and not have to rely on the domestic grid for power.

“If we can get to the point where the amount of energy we are consuming is no greater than the amount of energy we are producing, then we will not be dependent on anyone,” he said.

Other landfill gas-to-energy projects include Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The base generates 13,000 kilowatts of power a year from landfill gas. The $17.7 million for the project and other upgrades was paid for upfront by Ameresco Inc., which will be paid back out of $2 million in annual energy savings.

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