Winder project to turn landfill gas into heating energy

WINDER - Winder's gas authority by October will supply the county with natural gas produced at the Oak Grove Landfill on Carl-Bethlehem Road, rather than continuing to pipe it in from Louisiana.

For more than 20 years, the Oak Grove Landfill has burned off methane gas produced by its decomposing trash. Pittsburgh-based Renewable Solutions Group is building a purification facility at the landfill that will refine that lost gas into enough energy to heat Winder's homes and businesses for 40 or 50 years.

With an abundance of gas produced locally, the purification facility might produce sufficient revenue to extend Winder's gas lines all over Barrow County, readying the area for growth, Mayor Chip Thompson said.

Some of that landfill refuse came from Gwinnett County, Thompson said.

The Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia has agreed to buy that gas from the developer and send it into Winder's and Buford's pipeline, said Scott Tolleson, manager of member support.

"There is so much coming off of it and we are not big enough to use it all, so Buford will get the remainder that we don't use," Thompson said.

Only 18 or 19 purification facilities exist in the nation, president David Wentworth said.

"We chose Winder because these facilities operate most efficiently on larger landfills and Oak Grove was an undeveloped site and a good size," Wentworth said.

The gas will be refined to a high enough grade to heat homes and businesses, and fuel stoves and hot water heaters, Thompson said, adding that Winder has worked for 10 years to bring the purification facility to the landfill.

"It's a brand-new technology and a lot of people had to be convinced it would work," he said. "We are glad to be a part of it. It will clean up the environment and give us a source of energy. It'd be a shame not to use it."