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20 Aug 2019

Our green sources: Using landfill gas to generate electricity

At Cloverly, we can help offset the carbon costs of everyday activities. (You can find details here and here.) To do that, we invest in a variety of green projects. Here's a look at one of the carbon offset projects in our portfolio.

Hundreds of people tour the Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority's facilities each year. "Tours are a significant part of what we do here," Executive Director Lawrence D. Taylor said in an annual report.

You can understand why an organization that the US Environmental Protection Agency named its 2007 Community Partner of the Year would want to show off its facilities. But why would schoolchildren, service club members, and others want to tour a landfill?

One big reason is the landfill gas-to-energy project. It generates a steady 1,939 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power more than 1,400 homes each day.

Landfill gas, a by-product of waste decomposition, consists primarily of methane and carbon dioxide, plus small but malodorous amounts of other gases. A network of wells and pipes collects the gas in the landfill, and a private contractor vacuums it out and processes it.

The contractor uses the gas to power twin 2,200-horsepower generators. It sells the electricity to a local utility and pays the refuse authority a royalty for the fuel. "What was originally a landfill hazard and a smelly problem," says the authority's website, "is now a benefit to our integrated solid waste management system."

The landfill site also includes the following:

  • A recycling facility for aluminum and steel cans, plastic, cardboard, paper (including newspapers and magazines), and glass. The authority promotes recycling in order to extend the landfill's life by keeping recyclable waste out of it.
  • An electronics recycling facility.
  • A "green waste" facility that accepts grass clippings and other yard waste as well as Christmas trees and untreated, unpainted lumber. The yard waste becomes compost that the authority sells as plant bedding. The wood becomes a decorative cover mulch, also for sale.
  • A series of 14 ponds that provide habitat for wildlife as they purify the liquid that oozes out of the landfill.
  • A 1.2-mile walking trail that runs along forests, farmland, and three original locks of the Union Canal, an 82-mile commercial waterway that operated from 1828 until 1881.

The Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority serves 25 municipalities in Lebanon County. Its headquarters is in Lebanon, near the Pennsylvania capital of Harrisburg in the eastern part of the state. The town of 25,000 people is the former site of a gigantic Bethlehem Steel mill that closed in 1985.

The carbon offsets from this project have been certified and are compliant with the Verified Carbon Standard. In order to be certified, projects developed under the VCS Program must follow a rigorous assessment process, including independent auditing. For details, see the website of Verra, the program's administrator.

Cloverly Team
Cloverly Team