Oak Grove Landfill to turn trash into energy

WINDER - City leaders have unveiled a way to turn trash into energy, supplementing Winder's natural gas supply with methane gas generated by the Oak Grove Landfill in Barrow County. With nearly 30 state and local officials on hand for a tour of the cutting-edge facility last month, plant workers demonstrated how natural gas is being produced from compressed landfill gases.

As landfill contents decompose, methane gas is produced as a byproduct. Typically, this gas is burned off to prevent buildup and an eventual fire or explosion. But at the Oak Grove Landfill, impurities from the naturally occurring gases are removed through refrigeration and compression, refining the raw methane gas into fuel-grade natural gas.

The Barrow County facility went online in January and is piping natural gas to the Buford gas system. The city of Winder will begin serving some of its own natural gas to customers this fall, when a pipeline connecting Buford to Winder is expected to be completed.

"This innovative process of turning trash into a renewable, clean energy for our citizens is just one of the many opportunities we are seeking through our Vision 2020 initiative for our community," Mayor Chip Thompson of Winder said. "It's a fine example of how we can leverage public and private resources to deliver cost-effective services and improve our environment and quality of life locally."

The Winder Vision 2020 Plan outlines beautification and revitalization efforts, along with economic development opportunities. The landfill project is just one example of an economy-boosting prospect.

The plant cost $13 million to construct and is primarily funded through a combination of private equity investments and senior, secured, non-recourse debt. Dozens of workers were employed during the plant construction phase and three full-time employees now operate the facility around the clock.

The plant delivers 1,500 dekatherms of natural gas per day (the average home consumes about 1 dekatherm on a peak winter day). When the city of Winder comes online this fall, that volume is expected to nearly double.