Will County’s landfill gas-to-energy plant turns garbage to gold
Late last year, Will County, Ill., opened a landfill gas-to-energy (LFGE) plant that is generating 4.8 megawatts of power, enough for 3,000 homes in the surrounding area, and has room for expansion. Built through a public-private partnership and with the help of federal grant dollars, the project is turning methane gas from the landfill into electricity that is sold to the local utility, generating revenue for the county.
Will County built its Prairie View Recycling and Disposal Facility in 2004 and contracts with Waste Management of Illinois to operate it. When it was built, plans called for the eventual construction of an LFGE plant to put the landfill’s methane gas to use. In 2010, the county received a $3 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy and entered an agreement with Waste Management to build the plant. The county dedicated $1 million from the grant, and Waste Management contributed $8 million to the 7,000-square-foot plant’s construction.
Opened in December 2011, the LFGE plant is equipped with three 20-cylinder, 2,233-horsepower Caterpillar engines. As the landfill grows and produces more methane, more engines will be added, and the plant will increase its power output. When fully equipped, the plant is projected to power 7,800 homes annually.
Will County owns the rights to the landfill gas and sells it to Waste Management to use at the plant. The company also shares the profits from the sale of the electricity with the county. The revenue stream for Will County is expected to be $441,000 for the first year and should grow to average $1 million per year when more engines are added. The county will use the revenue to fund other green infrastructure projects. “Not only will this plant help protect our environment by creating a green energy source, it also creates a new revenue source that can now pay for important green infrastructure projects in the future without placing an additional burden to county taxpayers,” says Will County Executive Larry Walsh.