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Published: Monday, 2/17/2003

City to use landfill gas to generate electricity

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A proposal for the city of Toledo to produce its own electricity from landfill gases has gained a $1.6 million boost from Congress.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) is expected to join Mayor Jack Ford today to announce the project they say will save the city $3 million a year off its FirstEnergy Corp. electrical bill.

The project would use methane gas produced by decaying garbage in the Hoffman Road Landfill to power the city's wastewater and freshwater treatment plants.

City Councilman Peter Gerken credited engineer James Opaczewski, owner of Turbo Dynamics, with suggesting the methane process to make electricity.

“He has another internal energy system that he put in place at St. Vincent [Mercy Medical Center], which made them virtually Edison-free,” Mr. Gerken said. “I like the sound of saving money.”

Mr. Opaczewski, who is partnering with two other local engineering firms, said the system will produce 8 megawatts of electricity - enough to power 4,000 homes.

He said it will cost $15 million to design, make, and install, but should easily save the city more than $100 million over 30 years.

Miss Kaptur said the $1.6 million appropriation passed the House of Representatives and the Senate late Thursday.

“I want to make Toledo the first `green' community in America,” she said.

Miss Kaptur said the electricity could eventually power the SeaGate Convention Centre, the Farmers Market, and other publicly owned facilities.

“This will form the spine of a new set of power alternatives,” Miss Kaptur said.

Those alternatives could also include solar cells.

Mr. Opaczewski said he and Chris Middlebrough, manager of the city's wastewater treatment plant, came up with the plan to use the gas - now being burned off from a stack at the landfill - to make electricity.

The federal funds will pay for acquisition of the gas collection system.

The gas will be piped to the Bay View wastewater treatment plant and the Collins Park water treatment plant.

There, it would be used to power turbines to produce electricity.

The plan is to have the city's Department of Public Service, which runs the landfill, “sell” the methane to the Department of Public Utilities, which runs the water treatment system and is funded separately through its user fees.

The money would go into the city's general fund and would be dedicated, in part, to paying the debt service to construct a municipal garage to replace the aging structure on Albion Street.

“Once this system is put in, the landfill gas will become our primary source of energy” at the treatment plants, said Robert Williams, who is coordinating renovation of the city's wastewater-treatment system to comply with a federal court consent decree.

“And rather than pay Edison for the power to run the plant, we will be paying the service department,” Mr. Williams said.

He said the methane gas is a long-term source of fuel that will never go up in price.

The methane gas is expected to last at least 30 years.

One of the terms of the city's consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its wastewater and sewer system is that the city must provide a backup power source for the wastewater-treatment plant.

Mr. Williams said the gas turbine will rely on methane from the landfill and from the treatment plant's own gas-producing digesters.

He said the turbine also will be connected to natural gas supplies.

As an additional backup, the plant will remain connected to FirstEnergy, which owns Toledo Edison, Mr. Williams said.

The proposal was put out to bid in late 2001. Mr. Opaczewski's bid had been tentatively accepted, but has not been awarded yet, Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Opaczewski said the power generating plant at St. V's has been in operation for 12 years; it generates electricity from steam the hospital produces for its heating and air-conditioning system.

Mr. Opaczewski said the hospital's electricity is made at a fraction of the price of commercial electricity.

Mr. Opaczewski, 48, a graduate of the University of Toledo college of engineering, said his interest is making energy systems more efficient by eliminating waste.



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