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The Daily Tar Heel

From garbage to gas: Capturing landfill gas is a win for all involved

The Orange County landfill is only three years away from reaching full capacity. And as daunting of a prospect as it sounds, the University has done well to find a way to take the county’s lemons and turn them into UNC’s lemonade.

The methane produced by the landfill, located off Eubanks Road in Chapel Hill, can be used to power University buildings on Airport Drive even after the landfill closes.

According to UNC Energy Services Director Raymond DuBose, the University will be able to take advantage of the landfill’s methane reserves for up to 20 years.

At a time when budget cuts have led to raised tuition costs and economic struggles have stalled construction on the crucial Carolina North project, it is a welcome sign to see that UNC is still able to utilize creative methods of extracting energy and lower the community’s environmental impact.

“Methane has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide,” said DuBose. “For every ton we destroy, we get 21 times that in carbon offsets to reduce our carbon footprint.”

The project, which includes compensation to Orange County from UNC for the cost of the generator, could produce up to a megawatt of power at its highest performance level.

According to Dubose, the amount of methane that can be extracted from the landfill will likely peak in the next few years, then taper off over the next decade and a half.

Knowing that the landfill reaching capacity will not affect the University’s ability to harvest methane is a comfort, considering that the county is still working out a permanent solution for trash.

An added benefit to reducing our footprint on the environment is the economic benefit that the county will receive from its new contract with the University. As the county’s waste helps fuel University buildings, UNC can help fuel the county’s economic growth.

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