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Waste energy may deliver for 20 years

Though the county landfill is scheduled to reach capacity in three years, its energy can be used for the next 20.

UNC Energy Services Director Raymond DuBose said the methane produced by the Eubanks Road landfill will be used to power University buildings.

The project was initially designed to retrieve gas released by the landfill and convert it into usable energy for Carolina North, a research and mixed-use satellite campus off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

And though development is stalled on Carolina North for at least the next year, the energy can be used for UNC buildings on Airport Drive.

DuBose said the project will begin in about a year and is expected to cost about $5 million.

The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 16.

The Orange County Solid Waste Management Department signed a contract with UNC in February 2009 to develop a landfill gas recovery project.

The process will have two phases, said Gayle Wilson, the director of Orange County Solid Waste Management.

First the county will install a collection system of pipes to distribute burned-off methane to a single point. The gas will then be moved to power an electrical generator for the University.

The landfill will continue to produce methane for two decades even after it closes, DuBose said.

“The project will utilize gas generated by the landfill and turn it into energy,” Wilson said.

“It is the University’s responsibility to decide what they want to do with the energy.”

The county will receive compensation for the cost of the generator, Wilson said.

DuBose said the electrical generator run by the gas from the landfill will still be used to power future buildings that will be constructed in Carolina North.

UNC Energy Services has been developing this project for the past three years with the goal of reducing carbon emissions.

“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.”

Other state landfills have also found creative ways to use their energy.

The methane from a closed landfill that served Yancey and Mitchell counties in western North Carolina is used to run a pottery and art center called EnergyXchange.

The center’s executive director, Dan Asher, said the renewable energy program is a help not only to the local environment and economy but also to the success of its artists and education of the community.

The center brings in about two to three thousand visitors per year, Asher said.

Rather than seeing something that just generates electricity, people can learn and interact with local artists who are sponsored by the center, Asher said.

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