By Samantha Rose Loomis, Isthmus.
Dane County was one of the first in Wisconsin to begin using the methane its landfill produces to generate electricity.
“We actually produce enough electricity on our landfill to offset almost all electric use by Dane County operations, all Dane County functions countywide,” says John Welch, solid waste manager at Dane County landfill.
However, this is not what the electricity is used for. Dane County has a 10-year contract with Madison Gas and Electric, selling the electricity to it for about $3 million a year, Welch says.
As that contract comes to an end, Dane County is hoping to get a better deal. A proposed $18 million project in the 2017 budget would allow the county to turn the methane the trash produces into compressed natural gas, or CNG. That fuel could then be sold. It might even get piped to California, which is the leading market in the United States for the gas.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi wants the project to be a model for fighting global warming.
“I funded this project in my 2017 Dane County budget because I want our county to be a national leader on confronting climate change, embracing green energy, and taking steps to cleaning the air we breathe,” Parisi said.
There are currently about 3,000 active landfills in the United States. About 80 of these are in Wisconsin. Most of Wisconsin’s landfills have been producing electricity for the past decade or two, but in low amounts.