DeKalb County bolstered its claim of being “the greenest urban county in America” with the opening April 16 of its $9 million renewable fuels facility at the county’s landfill.
“We’re a little bit greener,” said DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis.
The facility, which took less than six months to construct, converts the gases that build up during the aging process of a landfill into renewable natural gas. Some of this gas will be turned into compressed natural gas (CNG) which will be used to fuel CNG vehicles.
“For years we’ve been burning most of this gas in generators and we’ve been sending the resulting electricity over to Georgia Power,” Ellis said.
Initially, the county’s sanitation department will convert 70 vehicles to run on renewable natural gas (RNG) produced by the renewable energy facility. The county’s goal is to replace or convert the entire fleet of 306 sanitation vehicles to run on natural gas.
“There will be reduced emissions here at Seminole and everywhere these vehicles are on the road,” Ellis said.
The yearly environmental impact to air quality will be the same as taking 30,000 passenger cars off the road, said Burke Brennan, the county’s chief communications officer.
The project is funded in part by a $7.8 million U.S. Department of Energy grant made to Clean Cities Atlanta through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal stimulus program.
“There are already facilities in our country that convert landfill gas to fuel and pump it into vehicles on site. There are also facilities that provide landfill gas and pump it into natural gas pipelines for consumer use. In DeKalb County, we’re the first…to do both,” according to Ellis.
Ellis said that once the facility is fully operational in six to eight weeks, DeKalb County would have the capacity to process more landfill gas than any other county in Georgia and the facility will help the county to reduce the rising cost of fueling county vehicles.
The county estimates that $3 million will be saved over the next eight years and the county will make money from the CNG it sells to the general public, Ellis said.
Ted Photakis, a senior account executive with Energy Systems Group, the company that designed and will operate the facility, said that since the landfill is permitted through 2091, “there could be a 100-year supply of methane fuel.”
“As long as this plant is running—it’ll be running 24/7—it’ll either be saving the county money on fuel costs or it’ll be bringing in additional revenue,” Photakis said.
“Renewable energy creates jobs and a green, sustainable infrastructure,” Ellis said. “Renewable energy reduces our dependence on foreign oil. Renewable energy is, in fact, the energy of the future. There may be a time when we might run out of oil, but we are not going to be running out of renewable energy.”
Renewable energy “is safer for our environment, it is more economical and, therefore, putting money back into the pockets of ordinary, middle-class Americans and it is decreasing our dependence on foreign oil,” said Gwen Keyes Fleming, regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s southeast region.
Don Francis, executive director of Clean Cities Atlanta, said, “Projects like this and attitudes like this in DeKalb County have turned the corner, and we are on our way to energy security in the United States.”