Landfill begins production of green energy in Pontotoc

By Regina Butler/Pontotoc Progress

A very special switch was thrown at the Three Rivers Solid Waste Landfill last week signaling the first green electricity produced in Pontotoc County.

A project that has been more than a year in the making, the pilot program was started in Pontotoc because of the landfill.

The Tennessee Valley Authority partnered with the Pontotoc Electric Power Association and Three Rivers Solid Waste Management Authority to produce the green electricity.

“We are fortunate to be in a position to be a partner in the pilot program,” said Chuck Howell PEPA General Manager. “It will be good for this community.”

Ronnie Bell, Three Rivers Division Director of Governmental Functions, said this project was a two step phase.

“First, we installed a gas collector in 2009,” Bell noted.

The authority expended some $1 million to create that methane gas collection system. And the gas is being flared to keep it from going into the environment.

Huge ribbed pipes run from each of the four cells at the landfill to a central location. These pipes are collecting the methane gas that is a natural by product of waste material as it decomposes in the landfill.

This runs into one central pipe underground to a metal pipe that is some four stories in the air and the gasses burn from the tall cylindrical piece of metal.

The second part of the phase was the installation of the generator which cost the Authority some $1.2 million.

With this new system in place, these gases are run through another process.

The gases are heated in one pipe, which enables the moisture to be pulled out of it. They are temporarily cooled down in the second pipe and are condensed at this point, then re-heated to a proper temperature before being put into a giant generator.

That generator sends it to a giant green transformer out in front of the building that houses the generator, which converts this into electricity and it is put directly onto the TVA power grid.

The generator was built and shipped to Pontotoc from Germany. Bell said the 1.2 megawatt generator is bigger than the authority really needed for the project.

“It’s probably 20 percent larger, but we wanted to be able to make all the electricity that TVA would buy.

“This fell under the TVA greener partners project,” Bell said. “We qualified for the pilot program because landfill gas is considered a renewable energy source.”

Pontotoc was chosen for this pilot program to demonstrate the feasibility of purchasing electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar, wind, low impact hydropower and biomass sources, including landfill gas.

Bell said that the landfill has a 10 year contract to sell the electricity to PEPA, “right now to sell 999 kilowatt hours to the company.”

That is enough power to run 800 to 1,000 homes.

Physical laws determine where electricity is ultimately used, so power from this source will go into TVA’s electric system as part of the region’s total power mix, rather than to individual homes or businesses.

The authority will make anywhere from $800,000 to $1.2 million annually on the sale of the electricity to TVA.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this moment,” said Calvin G. Abernathy engineer of the project with Mid-South Consulting. “This is a big occasion for many people and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone from start to finish.

“This was truly a group effort which involved everyone working together. My hat goes off to PEPA, 2G-Centergy, Curington Construction, McInnis Electric Co., TVA, LFGº specialities, Waste Connections and the staff of Three Rivers for your time, vision, effort and teamwork.”