About that night-light on Route 88

Today’s Chicago Tribune front-paged a story about a Hillside Landfill that is leaking landfill gas (LFG), which is about 50% methane. Methane, you may recall, is one of the so-called greenhouse gases so the EPA generally frowns on its escape from any source other than livestock (and even that’s only true up to a point.) It is flammable and can give you headaches and nausea.

“It’s the worst odor I’ve ever smelled. I’ve smelled dead bodies–I spent a year in Vietnam–and this is worse,” says [Joe] Tamburino, Hillside’s village president. “Once this gets in your home, it gets in your clothes. You can’t open your window to get rid of the odor because it’s worse outside.”

The thing is, if the Hillside landfill people hadn’t let their equipment go to pot, that methane would be producing electricity right now. Uh, huh, you can do that. You can also refine it for use as natural gas or turn it into vehicle fuel. Electricity generation is the most common, though.

Which brings me to that “torch” you see along Route 88 when you are traveling home to DeKalb at night from points east. This is how Waste Management destroys the gas buildup from our own DeKalb County Landfill. It’s called “flaring” and although considered a legitimate way to collect and “dispose” of LFG, I see it as a waste. Take a look at what another Illinois community has accomplished:

Students at Antioch Community High School don’t travel far for lessons in resource management, engineering, and biochemistry. With a new microturbine cogeneration system on campus, students see firsthand how to save money and help the environment. At 180 standard cubic feet per minute (scfm), landfill gas (LFG) is pumped from the adjacent H.O.D. Landfill (a former Superfund site) to twelve Capstone microturbines. This powerful project earned LMOP’s Project of the Year in 2003.

The microturbines provide heat and power to the 250,000 square foot high school, making it the first school in the U.S. to be heated and powered using LFG. The system produces enough electricity (360 kW) to sell excess to ComEd, while recovering heat from the microturbines to heat the school. The school expects to save $100,000 in energy costs every year. Taking only 18 months from grant application to completion, the project shows how diverse parties can come together to succeed. (Emphasis added.)

Antioch took advantage of an EPA program called the Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP), which has facilitated Landfill Gas Energy (LFGE) projects all over the country. To date, there are nearly 400 of them nationwide, 36 of them in Illinois. There are also 25 identified “candidate landfills” for energy projects in our state. Is DeKalb on that list? You betcha’.

So what are we waiting for?

7 thoughts on “About that night-light on Route 88”

  1. Well, hey. We have wondered why that stuff was not being put to use. Cheap and forever renewable. Let’s face it folks. We are never going to quit making garbage. Who is the site owned by?

  2. It’s been done before, a very expensive endeavor. I foresee the future with landfills creating enough power to light up a good portion of the town, hog farms have an over abundance of waste, and it too is capable of creating energy.
    Doesn’t this sound like a good project for our aspiring engineers and scientists from the universities?

  3. charm–You mean who owns the landfill site? If so I assume that would be Waste Management. I’m sure we could find out.

    Something I didn’t mention in the article: Miguel Checa, the 4th Ward alderman before Knowlton, reportedly looked into what at that time was called “methane reclamation” & WM said the startup was too expensive. Maybe so, but that’s when you call in partners, write for grants & the like. (Checa was a real go-getter but didn’t run again after his one term. He’s the one credited with getting the public access channel so we can watch city meetings on TV.)

    ing–EXACTLY. In fact, why couldn’t alternative energy technologies be our new “manufacturing” sector with NIU partner-ing? Now that oil prices are rising & not expected to go back down much anymore, there will be a demand & probably a lot of fed tax credits & other incentives floating out there.

    I bet we could do amazing things with hog poop.

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