WM expands Michigan landfill gas project

By Lisa Gibson | May 31, 2010
Posted July 12, 2010, at 4:34 p.m. CST

Expansions scheduled for Waste Management's landfill-gas-to-energy project near Richmond, Mich., will make it one of the top energy-producing landfill gas facilities in North America.

The Pine Tree Acres landfill gas project currently produces 5 megawatts (MW) of power and has been operated by Landfill Energy Solutions for more than 10 years, according to Wes Muir, WM spokesman. WM will now design, build and operate a $15 million facility that will add nearly 13 MW of energy, which will be sold to Consumers Energy Co. "Concurrent to our expansion LES is also expanding its facility to produce another 3 MW of energy," Muir said. When completed, the facilities will produce more than 21 MW.

WM has 273 landfills, 119 of which host landfill gas-to-energy facilities. Together they provide the equivalent of more than 470 megawatts of energy, enough to power approximately 400,000 homes and replace nearly 2 million tons of coal per year. The company announced in 2007 its plans to expand its energy-from-landfill-gas operations by more than 60 facilities by 2013, Muir said. "For those landfills that produce enough gas to host such a facility, we are developing other technologies to utilize this gas," he said. The technology used at the new Pine Tree facility will be the same the company has used for the past 20 years, but with modifications including reciprocating engines similar to the ones in a car, Muir said.

The gas is created naturally through the decomposition of waste in landfills and is a readily available renewable energy source. It can be collected and used directly as medium Btu gas for industrial use or sold to gas-to-energy plants to fuel engine- or turbine-driven generators of electricity, according to WM. For the company, landfill gas has lived up to its promise of being a reliable and economical form of energy.

"Landfill gas to energy is important for WM because we want to take advantage of the landfill gas we produce at our landfills and ensure that we utilize this gas to the greatest extent possible," Muir said.

The company says its landfill gas-to-energy program is a vital part of North America's drive to develop alternative energy sources and promote environmental sustainability.