News & Events

Renewable energy plant opens at private landfill

Daily Post Athenian / September 29, 2011
Author: Erin Edgemon

A $12.5 million, first-of-its-kind renewable energy facility is now open and operating at Meadow Branch Landfill. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Renewco Meadow Branch Processing Plant was held Wednesday at the site. Renewco built the facility in partnership with AGL Resources and Keystone Renewable Energy. The facility captures methane gas produced by the decomposition of solid waste in the landfill and converts it to pipeline-quality renewable gas. The gas, which is mixed in with natural gas in the pipeline, is used to displace the need for conventional fossil fuels.

"We are extremely proud to bring a first-of-its-kind renewable energy project to Eastern Tennessee, and we hope to become a point of pride for you and the community," said Ira Pearl, chief executive officer of Renewco.

He said the facility has brought "measurable benefits" to the community, such as reducing local pollution and greenhouse gases, adding to the local tax base and creating much-needed local green energy jobs.

The project took five years to complete from concept to the end of construction. Four permanent jobs were created with the opening of the facility. About 30 workers built the plant. Pearl said the amount of natural gas created in the plant could power 10,000 to 15,000 homes a year. The plant actually produced too much gas to be directly pumped to Athens Utilities Board so it had to be sold to a wholesale gas distributor.

McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said the message of the new facility is "impressive." He said it is turning an unwanted pollution into an asset that will reduce the need for conventional fossil fuels.

The plant should reduce the odor emitting from the landfill, Gentry said, and property taxes collected on the property should be higher.

Pearl said Meadow Branch was picked for the facility because of its proximity to other Renewco projects, the landfill is large enough and contains the right type of waste to produce enough gas and its lifespan is at least 20 years.

Pearl explained the process of turning methane emissions from the landfill into renewable gas.

Gas emissions from the landfill are captured using a network of wells that have been installed around the landfill, he said.

"Then we process the gas to safely remove all toxins, moisture and unwanted trace compounds so that the result is a renewable and pipeline-quality fuel suitable for any natural gas application," Pearl said.

Gas is then pressurized for transportation into the pipeline, he said.

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