Houston landfill generators will convert methane to energy

KATHLEEN — A 90-ton crane installed two generators, valued at $1 million each, into a massive energy-conversion facility at the Houston County landfill Wednesday morning.

The generators are a part of a multimillion dollar system to collect methane generated at the landfill and convert it into energy for the local area. The facility is a private-public partnership between Houston County and Flint Energies, launched in 2008.

“We are going to collect the gas; they are going to produce the energy,” said Terry Dietch, the Houston County landfill manager.

The project is scheduled to culminate in December, when Flint Energies opens a substation across Ga. 247 to feed the power into the Houston Country energy grid. When the facility is complete, the landfill will generate about 3.2 megawatts of electricity continuously.

“The electric generators will be enough to power 800 to 1,000 homes,” said Marian Douglas, spokeswoman for Flint Energies.

The system, according to Dietch, works by sucking methane out of the ground like soda through a straw. Methane is generated during the natural decomposition process of the waste.

The methane will then be converted into electricity, using the generators that were installed Wednesday, and pushed out to the substation, which will distribute the power throughout the area.

Houston County has invested about $1.2 million in the project, including installing a methane collection system that weaves throughout the 2,600 acre landfill. They should make their money back quickly, if estimates prove accurate.

“We’re looking to generate about $250,000 to $400,000 a year,” said Ned Sanders, Houston County Commission chairman.

Flint Energies invested about $7 million in the facility. It, too, could see its investment pay off if the region’s largest potential client takes notice.

Robins Air Force Base is facing stiff federally imposed requirements for clean energy use. The electricity generated by the landfill will be carbon-free, according to Douglas. Robins currently powers much of the base with energy provided by Georgia Power.

To contact writer Thomas L. Day, call 744-4489.