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Published: Tuesday, 7/1/2008

Hancock County hopes to turn trash into profitable energy

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Hancock County is working on a plan to convert methane gas generated by rotting garbage at the county landfill into electricity.

Commissioners last week authorized entering into a contract with Granger Energy/Electric of Lansing to develop and operate a system to collect and convert methane into energy.

Commissioner Phillip Riegle said the methane occurs naturally so it makes sense to capture it and convert it to energy.

"I think it's a way to make some money. I don't know that it will be a substantial amount of money with our little operation, but it will make some and it's a way to help the environment," he said.

With energy costs soaring, Hancock County is one of a growing number of landfill operators that are converting the greenhouse gas into energy.

The city of Toledo last year announced a $26 million project intended to capture the methane generated at the Hoffman Road landfill in North Toledo and pipe it to the city's wastewater treatment plant, where it will be mixed with methane produced there. The combined stream of gas is to be used to power turbines that produce electricity.

Hancock County Sanitary Engineer Steve Wilson said county officials began looking into the "gas-to-energy" process about five years ago. Methane produced at the landfill north of Findlay vents into the atmosphere, which the Environmental Protection Agency allows, Mr. Wilson said, because the landfill does not generate enough methane to necessitate collecting it and burning it off in a flare like the Hoffman Road landfill does.

"We've reached the point where we're not generating enough methane to require active gas collection, but we're generating enough that if, one was installed, it could operate an electrical generator and be profitable," he said.

Rather than operate its own system, Hancock County plans to work with Granger over the next three to six months on an agreement by which the company would install and run the system, and the county would receive a royalty for providing the methane.

Mr. Wilson said officials believe the system could generate close to $200,000 a year for the county, although it will depend "on the quality of gas we have and how much can be generated. We have some estimates, but until we get the system installed and see how it operates, we really don't know."

In neighboring Wood County, Solid Waste Director Ken Rieman said the county has done initial tests to determine the quantity and quality of methane produced at its landfill west of Bowling Green, which is considerably smaller than Hancock County's. It is waiting for American Municipal Power-Ohio, a municipal utility co-op involved with the wind farm built at the landfill, to determine the feasibility of installing a gas-to-energy system.

"The smaller the landfill, the tougher it is to do," Mr. Rieman said. "Of course, the higher the energy costs, the more people are going to be interested in doing it."

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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