|Generator at Carolina North now producing electricity from landfill methane gas|
|Monday, May 20, 2013|
The first project completed at Carolina North sets the tone for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus meant to be a model of sustainability. This spring, an Army green, 1,000- kilowatt generator shipped here from Austria started turning a greenhouse gas into electricity for the local energy grid.
Landfill gas, largely methane, is produced by the breakdown of materials within buried waste. Unchecked, gas pressure builds within a landfill and ultimately releases into the atmosphere, contributing to pollution and global warming.
“We are grateful that we have been able to harness this greenhouse gas that is harmful to the atmosphere and convert it into energy that will eventually fuel the growth of Carolina North,” Chancellor Holden Thorp said. “It’s also a great example of how the University and local governments can work together for their mutual benefit.”
Electricity generation is the latest stage in this joint project of the University and Orange County that began in 2009. That year, the two reached an agreement in which the University pays the county for the use of the gas and in turn receives carbon credits for reducing pollution. The total emissions reduction as a result of the project is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 8,000 passenger vehicles.
The credits will help the campus honor the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment to be climate neutral by 2050. The project is one strategy in the 2009 Climate Action Plan to reduce UNC’s carbon footprint to zero by 2050.
By November 2011, UNC had installed a network of pipes to collect the gas within the landfill and direct it to a flaring system. Burning waste methane, which is many times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, reduces pollution and global warming.
But with the 2012 installation of the pipeline into the heart of the Carolina North campus and the purchase of a generator, the landfill gas no longer has to be flared. Now it can be converted into electrical energy.
At first, the electricity generated will go back to the Duke Energy grid. Later, exhaust from the generator will be used heat buildings at Carolina North, recycling heat that would otherwise be wasted.
“We’re pleased recent regulatory and economic changes made gas recovery from small landfills feasible,” said Barry Jacobs, chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners. “Clean energy projects like this are the sort of innovative ideas that public entities should be pursuing together.”