When a municipality has finished with a landfill, they typically bury it. The organic matter in the landfill decomposes and releases gases consisting of methane and other chemical compounds. This gas, known as landfill gas, can be captured and recovered by the addition of some simple technology. Landfill gas recovery provides a number of benefits.
Prevents Global Warming
Methane is a greenhouse gas. As a greenhouse gas, it is 21 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Releasing methane into the atmosphere may contribute to global warming and climate change. All landfills produce methane and they are, in fact, the largest producers of methane in our atmosphere. This recovery reduces the amount of methane being released by a landfill by as much as 90%. This reduction in methane emissions helps to prevent global warming. The amount of methane captured from all landfill gas projects in the US reduces greenhouse emissions equivalent to removing 14 million vehicles from the road.
Makes EPA Compliance Profitable
The Environmental Protection Agency has strict regulatory guidelines on how much methane a landfill can release. There are various ways of controlling the release of methane from landfill including simply burning the gas off. This allows the methane to be used to produce energy. Allowing landfill operators to make money while complying with environmental regulations. In addition, companies can qualify for green energy income tax credits, making landfill gas even more profitable.
Provides a “Green” Energy Source
The gases produced by a landfill can be used in place of non-renewable sources for generating electricity. The recovery can be used to replace coal and natural gas to generate water vapor to power electrical turbines. This makes it a renewable energy source. A landfill can produce enough gas to provide energy for a couple thousand homes. Since all landfill produce methane, landfill gas is truly a renewable source of energy.
Improves the Local Economy
Landfill gas recovery can help improve the local economy. The design, construction and maintenance creates locals jobs. Local businesses may also enjoy savings from using the gas from landfills in place of non-renewable resources like natural gas. They additional jobs associated with the landfill project and the additional income businesses gain through having access to cheaper energy lead to indirect job growth.
Reduces Hazardous Emissions
Methane is not the only emission found in landfill gas. Many other organic compounds exist in lower concentrations. Some of these compounds can be hazardous to human health. These compounds are destroyed when this gas is burned to generate electricity. As a result, recovering the gas from these landfills reduces dangerous emissions. It also reduces bad odors in the area surrounding the landfill.
Burning landfill gas does generate nitrogen oxides, a component of smog. However, the amount of nitrogen oxides created is considerably less than is created when burning non-renewable resources such as natural gas or coal. As a result, it may contribute slightly to smog but if landfill gas is replacing coal, its use may actually reduce smog.