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Winder landfill to recycle methane gas into energy

WINDER - Cleaner air and more renewable energy are two of the biggest benefits for Georgia with Thursday's dedication of the state's first landfill gas facility.

By taking the Oak Grove landfill's gas and converting it to pipeline quality, a costly waste stream harmful to the environment is being turned into a renewable energy source, said Renewable Solutions Group's President David Wentworth.

"We're thrilled to provide cost-effective, clean, reliable energy to the region to help significantly improve regional air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that impact climate change," he said.

Called the Winder Renewable Methane Facility, the plant will be able to supply enough fuel to heat 10,500 homes once at full capacity.

"We realize the environmental and economic value of these types of projects," said Bill Held, director of landfill gas projects for Republic Services, which owns the Oak Grove landfill. "And we congratulate our partner Renewable Solutions Group for implementing this innovative and productive use for the methane that is produced in the landfill."

Landfill gas, composed primarily of methane and carbon dioxide, is a result of organic waste in a landfill decomposing. By capturing much of that methane and converting it to an energy source, it helps in offsetting the need for non-renewable resources such as coal and oil, Held said.

He said it's the only renewable energy source that when used directly prevents atmospheric pollution. He added that once the gas is captured it can be used to generate electricity, heat, steam and can even be used as an alternative vehicle fuel to power fleets of school buses or mail trucks.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that of the 2,400 currently open or recently closed municipal solid waste landfills, 445 have landfill gas utilization projects. The EPA also estimates that more than 500 could have their methane turned into an energy resource in a cost-effective manner. The end result could equal 900,000 homes per year having their electricity produced for them.

Barrow County and the city of Winder, which is part of the nonprofit Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia along with Buford, Lawrenceville and Sugar Hill, should soon realize the benefits of this new facility, Mayor Chip Thompson said.

"Every city in MGAG should see a little profit from this," Thompson said. "And we're going to have cleaner air. And I'm hoping that more landfills will be utilized this way because it really helps the environment tremendously."

Thompson said the city also plans to use the proceeds to the benefit of residents and local businesses.

"We'll run gas lines so that we can offer gas to all the businesses and homes and families of Barrow County," Thompson said. "And we want to make sure that anyone who wants to have gas as a service, and I think you'll find more and more people who want that, can get it because it's more efficient to get it to them and it's cleaner to burn."