Friday, November 16, 2012

Stunning Fact: Landfill Gas Powers 1.5 Million Homes Or Generates The Equivalent of 2 Nukes!

What rots, produces gas, and powers about 1.5 million American homes?  Garbage at 540 landfill gas projects produces 15 million megawatt-hours, more than enough power for all the homes in Vermont, Rhode Island, North Dakota, or Wyoming. It would take two nukes to generate that much power.  While each project tends to be small, with the biggest being 50 megawatts and the smallest a couple hundred kilowatts, landfill gas projects add up to a total that matters.

Pennsylvania and Waste Management are national leaders in capturing methane and using it productively, either to make electricity or to provide pipeline quality natural gas.  Around the country, Waste Management operates 131 landfill gas projects and is building another 10.

Favorable economics is a key to the success of landfill gas. Costs of installation range from $1.2 million to $1.8 million per megawatt, and landfill gas systems operate at about a 90% capacity factor.  The combination of low capital costs, high capacity factors, and zero fuel cost make landfill gas one of the nation's most economic sources of electricity.

Landfill gas is good for the economy and better for the environment. Methane, if it is vented into the atmosphere, traps 23 times more heat than carbon dioxide, making it a potent global warming pollutant. But methane fortunately dissipates much more quickly in the atmosphere--typically within 15 years--than carbon dioxide that persists for 100 or more years.

Landfill gas is another example of cleaner and cheaper energy solutions.


  1. Hi John, this is a great article. The one thing that seems a bit off is where you mention the cost of installation ranging from $1.2 million to $1.8 million. Did you mean $18 million? My firm is finishing up a landfill gas to pipeline injection project which is pushing $20 million. Just thought I'd mention that there are larger projects. In any case, the economics need to add up, as you pointed out.

  2. Hello John

    Is the major cost in gas conditioning?

    What does WM do with the contaminants they remove from the landfill gas?

    As the plastics and other trash elements breakdown they travel with the methane to the surface and must be removed.


    1. The major cost is the capital costs of the turbines that use the gas to make power. The quality of the gas is variable. Sometimes it is pipeline quality and does not require much or any conditioning.

  3. Great post John, I completely agree.

    -Land Source Container Service, Inc.