The public is invited to attend a ribbon-cutting Tuesday for a program that will not only help protect the environment, but is expected to put a few dollars in the county’s bank account.
At 2 p.m. Tuesday, Surry County will hose a groundbreaking ceremony for its “Gas to Energy” project at the landfill, located off Holly Springs Road in Mount Airy.
The project is the first of its kind for the area, and helps underscore the county’s commitment to the environment and support for renewable energy initiatives, county officials said.
Landfill gas is a naturally occurring by-product of waste decomposition, and is composed of about 50 percent methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Unless methane is collected and converted to energy, it is released into the air, where it not only smells bad, but contributes to local air pollution and poses a safety hazard, according to Dennis Bledsoe, interim public works director and a key figure in making the project a reality.
Through Bledsoe the county worked with Petra Engineering to develop the project.
“The county has been considering the possibility for the gas-to-energy project for several years, and worked with CHA Consultants Inc., to determine the feasibility of such a project at the county landfill,” he said.
According to Bob Sallock, of CHA Consultants, the county is expected to make some money from the project without any cost or financial obligation on the part of the county.
Under the gas-to-energy project, Petra Engineering will install a collection system to harvest the methane gas and direct it to a 20-cylinder engine.
The engine was designed specifically by Caterpillar for methane collection, and will use the gas to produce 2,240 horsepower, which in turn will power a 1,600-kilowatt generate.
Using statewide consumption rates as a guide, the new Surry County Co-Generation Facility will produce enough power to light 11,500 homes annually.
The power generated will be sold to Duke Power, which will put it on its electrical grid.
“This project…enables Duke Energy to purchase electricity from a currently-untapped fuel source, which it would otherwise have to produce by means of fossil fuel or nuclear plants,” Bledsoe said.
According to Wayne Marshall, CEO of Petra Engineering, the collection and conversion of methane to energy is an idea whose time has come.
“Petra has achieved significant success working with many landfills, state, county and municipal projects and initiatives,” he said. “We look forward to our partnership with Surry County, and being a part of the positive impact this project will have on the county and its residents.”
The project is expected to begin generating electricity before the end of the year.
Bledsoe said the idea is a win-win.
“You lower the greenhouse gas emissions by a tremendous amount,” he said. “We’ll be removing methane gas from the air and using it to create energy rather than just venting or burning it.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.