If Durham Can Do It - Why Not Orange?

A short story posted today on WRAL.com describes how Durham has entered into an agreement to install internal combustion engines and generators at their landfill. Duke Energy will subsequently buy the power generated which is estimated to be sufficient to serve 1600 homes.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Thursday that a deal with Methane Power Inc. will allow Charlotte-based Duke Energy to begin buying up to two megawatts of power generated by the landfill beginning next year.

WRAL.com: Duke to turn Durham landfill gas into electricity, 8/7/08

Wouldn't it be nice if Orange County did something similar (which a number of OP posters have been advocating for over the last several years) and then specifically directed the funds generated by the sale of those rights to improvements to the Rogers Road community? It would at least be a start to repaying those folks for the sacrifices they have borne.

I hope that one or more (hopefully all) of our Orange County Commissioners might give this idea some serious consideration since it seems that Durham, Methane Power, and Duke Energy have thought through it enough to think it is economically feasible.



This certainly sounds interesting. Is there an example of a community/landfill of similar population/size to OC that has not only proposed doing this but have done it in a manner that benefits the community?

I found more information about this on the Reuters news site. http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS180341+07-Aug-2008+PRN20080807   The deal is expected to cost Duke Energy customers less than 10 cents per year.  I think the key is whether it is economically feasible for a company like Methane Power to put the necessary equipment out there to collect it, but hey, we don't know till we ask, right? 


Wake county has been selling methane from its landfill for years.  Last I hard Orange's plan was to let UNC flare off (i.e. waste) the gas, so that UNC could claim a carbon credit for not venting it.
Andreas (not Adrian), does flaring off mean burning, or simply letting fly with the methane? 

First, look here:


Methane is a nasty gas to just vent, really is. Much better to burn it off.

If you can get enough of it and in a relatively constant flow, you could with some effort and engineering collect it and pressurize it. This is far tougher to do in practice than in theory. But it's natural gas, after all, and could be used to run a piston or turbine for power generation. Unfortunately, and like most energy issues, the cost of doing this sort of thing (which seems to the lay person to be a no-brainer) can often be many times the immediate economic benefit. This is why you see the gas flares at refineries and so forth, and one considers the "waste" but in fact there's little to no gain possible, from an economic perspective, in attempting to recover this waste energy.

How is it that collecting and using the gas is possible and actually being done in Raleigh, Durham, Asheville and Concord yet not practical in Chapel Hill?  Why are private companies fighting to get access to the landfill gas if its not profitable?
It is indeed quite often profitable to collect the methane gas for power generation. The issue is coming up with the capital to make the initial investment -- the investment will pay back over time, and then be profitable. Then it becomes a win-win -- fewer carbon emissions to contribute to global warming, and a revenue stream for the county.


This covers all I know of the project, but there is a deal in the works. 


Landfill gas to create electricity for Orange County

By: Max Rose, Assistant City Editor

Issue date: 4/16/08
A project to capture gas from the Orange County landfill to generate electricity for carbon credits will proceed.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners granted county and University officials permission to move forward on developing a final contract that will address engineering, commercial and legal issues.

"We do believe this will be a win-win for the University and the county," UNC Director of Energy Services Ray DuBose said.

The county and University came before the board Tuesday for the first time since they entered into a memorandum of understanding for the partnership Jan. 17.

With the development of Carolina North expected soon, the University is anticipating a need to fully utilize the program by about 2013.

The capital cost of the project is estimated at $5.5 million. The University and county anticipate a contract of at least 20 years.

"The partnership has prevailed," said Assistant County Manager Gwen Harvey.


As published in the Chapel Hill News yesterday

UNC, county close to gas deal

the County and UNC are finalizing the terms of a deal in which UNC would obtain the rights to the methane produced by the landfill for generation of power for Carolina North. While I'm happy to see that this source of energy is being utilized and not simply burned off to no one's advantage I'm disappointed that the County did not do more to see if they could have gotten a better deal for this increasingly more valuable asset as evidenced by a quote from Gayle Wilson, the County's solid waste director, in the CHN article:

"Since we didn't bid, we'll never know whether we could have received more or less revenue through a competitive process," Wilson said.

According to the CHN article "UNC officials asked the county last fall not to bid the project out, said Gayle Wilson, Orange County's solid waste director."

That seems to me like a somewhat unusual request for the University to make and even more unusual for the County to grant. I hope the University remembers this largesse the next time the County has a request of them.

the methane was not used to power the new town public works and bus buildings & the new elementray school on Eubanks.

Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.