An Idaho electric cooperative has partnered with a local county on a landfill generation project capable of producing enough electricity to meet the needs of 1,800 homes.
Kootenai Electric Cooperative now operates 3.2 megawatts of generation from a small plant on the grounds of an Idaho landfill. (Photo By: Kootenai EC)
“This is the first generator facility we’ve constructed and operated,” said Doug Elliott, general manager of Kootenai Electric Cooperative. The Hayden-based co-op began working on the project in 2009 and financed it with $7 million in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds obtained from the federal government.Kootenai Electric Cooperative
began operating a pair of generators, each weighing 43,000 pounds, inside a building constructed on the grounds of Kootenai County’s Fighting Creek Landfill in March. About 100 of the co-op’s consumer-members were on hand for the official dedication, May 30.
Since March, plant operators have been alternating use of the 1.6 megawatt generators, fueled with methane gas which flows from a series of pipes pulling it from the landfill at a rate of 1,200 cubic feet per minute.
“It’s been a steep learning curve, but a valuable one,” said Elliott, who is already discussing the possibility of buying more methane output from the county facility.
Wastewater from a combination of rainwater and decomposition is now allowed to evaporate, but processing alternatives could eventually provide enough fuel for a third generator, officials said.
The landfill, operating since 1993, received permits for expansion in 2000, which should enable it to keep operating at least through 2040. Until the generators starting running, flared methane produced blue-orange flames atop metal stacks, filling the air with a sulfur-like odor.
“We had a renewable energy source that was going to waste,” Roger Saterfiel, Kootenai County’s solid waste director, told reporters. “As soon as they fired it up, it’s revenue for the county.”
The co-op is expected to pay the county $4.5 million over the next 20 years for the gas drawn from the facility. The co-op and the county will also earn money from the sale of renewable energy credits sold to other utilities to meet renewable energy portfolio standards in nearby states.
“At this time we have a long-term power purchase agreement with our power supplier, the Bonneville Power Administration, which makes it impractical for us to use the output for our own needs,” said Erika Neff, the co-op’s communications coordinator. “For the foreseeable future, we’re selling the power to an investor-owned utility and the revenue we receive will be used to offset the cost of KEC’s operations.”