Biosolids recovered from the county's wastewater treatment plant are air-sealed and trucked 18 miles to its landfill. Photo: Monroe County
Untapped potential

Hundreds of landfills nationwide could be generating valuable energy.

Methane is about 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. It's a principle component of natural gas and a relatively clean fuel.

A readily available source of methane is the anaerobic decomposition of organic waste in landfills. Most operators burn or flare off the gas in compliance with Clean Air Act regulations. But it also can be piped to gas engines to generate electricity or produce an alternative fuel source.

According to the EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program, 445 landfill gas-to-energy projects nationwide generate 11 billion kWh of electricity/year and deliver 236 million cubic feet/day of methane for direct-use applications. The agency estimates more than 535 landfills suitable to host such plants could generate a total of 1,200 MW. Establishing projects at all eligible landfills would more than double energy production from the current 1,180 MW to more than 2,500 MW.