ASU Energy Center helps landfill turn methane gas into electricity

Joshua Farmer

Appalachian State University’s Energy Center has implemented the use of methane reclaimed from pipes drilled into the landfill. The project will save $38,000 per year.

Appalachian State University’s Energy Center helped in the implementation of a project that turns methane gas from Watauga County’s landfill into electricity.

Program Manager for Appalachian’s Energy Center Stan Steury said the university encouraged the county to set the project in motion, and helped assemble the team that had the resources and equipment to start the process.

The university also helped the county learn how to work the mechanism, Steury said.

Steury said the engines began running in January 2012 in a landfill located off Highway 421 right on the edge of Boone that has been capped since the mid-1990s.

The landfill was previously used by Watauga County Solid Waste and Recycling for the county’s waste needs, but now the county ships waste to a landfill outside the county.

Steury said there are around 25 pipes drilled into the landfill, which feed to a larger pipe, which blows the methane gas into two V8 engines.

The engines were modified by a West Virginia company to run on the lower grade of natural gas coming from the landfill, Steury said. The gas that comes from the landfill is about 50 percent methane while regular natural gas is about 99 percent methane.

The engines then spin a generator, producing 140 kilowatts-per-hour at maximum capacity, though the energy output varies, Steury said.

Steury said Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development advocated the project in the early 1990s, but the county wasn’t interested at the time.

Research analyst Jason Hoyle helped negotiate a contract between Watauga County and Duke Energy.
The contract allows the county to sell the excess energy that is not used on-site to Duke Energy at about 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, Hoyle said.

Hoyle said that previously the landfill had paid about $38,000 per year to Blue Ridge Electric for energy needs.

Story: JOSHUA FARMER, News Editor

Photo: BOWEN JONES, Intern Photographer