Edgecombe County is getting closer to turning waste into money. Well, not exactly waste.
The 1.8 million tons of waste in the county landfill generates methane gas and it will be sold to Edgecombe-Martin Electric Membership Corp. for between $200,000 to $300,000 per year. EMC will use the gas to generate electrical power.
Just about everything is in place to begin the process with the exception of two large engines that will be used to produce the electricity.
The engines will initially be placed on cement platform with a building will be built to house them at a latter date.
Edgecombe has been working on the project for at least six years in conjunction with the Appalachian Energy Center at Appalachian State University. The methane gas is similar to natural gas or propane.
Edgecombe County Manager Lorenzo Carmon estimates the production could begin within 60 days.
“Engineers have estimated that the landfill will produce gas for the next 20 to 30 years,” Carmon said. “This is a win-win situation for the county.”
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas believe to have more than 20 times the global warming effects of carbon dioxide. Edgecombe County will prevent global warming by digging wells in the landfill and pulling the gas through pipes to a central station where it will then burned in a flare, creating less-harmful carbon dioxide.
That process is already in place. Once the two engines arrive, a pipe will be attached to them from the flare to produce electricity.
That particular portion of the landfill was used for solid waste before it was capped off in 1995. After Hurricane Floyd destroyed many houses in Edgecombe County in 1999, county officials were given permission to reopen the site for construction demolition waste. Carmon said reopening the site produced even more gas.
The flare at the site burns continuously.
“We had people calling us saying, “There’s a fire at the landfill,” said Michael Cummings Edgecombe County solid waste director. “It’s not a fire. It’s helping the county makes some money.”