Virginia landfill gas power plant opens

By Anna Austin | November 21, 2011

A 6.4-megawatt (MW) landfill gas-to-energy plant built by Republic Services Inc., Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and Fortistar LLC has come on line in Richmond, Va.

Richmond Energy LLC is located at Republic Services’ Old Dominion Sanitary Landfill in Henrico County and consists of four 1.6-MW Caterpillar G3520 reciprocating engine generator sets. With the support of associated landfill gas clean-up and compression equipment, the plant will meet the total electrical energy needs of approximately 4,500 Virginia residences, according to Republic Service.

David Comora, chief information officer at Fortistar, said the project is large compared to other landfill gas-to-energy projects, but by no means the largest. “We have several over 15 MW, and we are completing another one for Republic Services that will come on line early next year that is 11.5 MW.” Fortistar currently has more than 20 landfill gas-to-energy projects at Republic Services landfills.

The size of the plant is typically dependent on the size of the landfill, Comora said. “They can get up there if the landfill is pretty big, and if they have a large acceptance rate, they produce more landfill gas. The more trash the better.”

The Old Dominion landfill is a large landfill that is still open and accepting trash.

Another important factor in selecting a landfill as a project candidate is the way the gas collection system is installed and optimized, according to Comora. “You may have a large landfill but the collection system isn’t great, it might not be getting a lot of gas and doing what it should be doing,” he said.

The construction timeline for Richmond Energy was only about seven months, which is fast for one of these projects, Comora said. However, putting a plant on a large, active landfill isn’t easy. “Putting up an energy project somewhere is one thing, but putting one up on a living, breathing landfill that has stuff going on every day is tricky,” he said.

The swift project timeline and project success was due to the relationships of the partners involved. “The synergies on the ground and the way we work with Old Republic were the keys to making this happen,” he said. “We all worked together to keep everything moving.”

The Richmond plant is currently in commissioning/testing phases, Comora added, but will be delivering power soon. The power output of the plant will be sold to ODEC under a long-term power purchase agreement.