OUR OPINION: Landfill electric power site

By NEMS Daily Journal

Months of planning paid off this week when Three Rivers Regional Solid Waste Management Authority announced that it expects to produce electricity by February with a methane-powered generator at its landfill site in Pontotoc County.
The $2 million project will pay for itself in about four years, authority Chairman Rick Faucette of Tupelo said Tuesday. TVA, as part of a grid-wide program, will pay 3 cents per kilowatt hour above retail for the electricity, sold through the Pontotoc County Electric Power Association. The nearly 1 megawatt capacity plant could power about 1,000 homes.
The power will be sold through Pontotoc Electric Power Association, which will distribute it into the TVA power grid.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is the largest publicly owned utility in the United States, serving about nine million customers in seven southern states, including 36 Mississippi counties and 329,000 households.
Northeast Mississippi was among the earliest TVA customer/distributor contract areas; Tupelo was the first TVA contract city, with distribution beginning in early 1934.
In Mississippi, TVA’s 2010 revenues were almost $1 billion – $974 million. Customers bought 5.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.
The methane-powered generator puts to practical and – it is hoped – profitable use the gas naturally produced by the thousands of tons of solid waste compacted and buried at the site.
A flare has burned the methane at the rate of about 600 cubic feet per minute. That gas will be captured and burned to power the generator.
A similar TVA-related project in West Point was started eight months ago. The Golden Triangle Regional Solid Waste Authority says its project is expected to begin operations Oct. 12.
Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley said the commission unanimously approved the Pontotoc landfill-to-electricity project last week.
“Consumers don’t have a financial risk, the public doesn’t have a financial risk, and we’re able to use a renewable source,” he said.
The projects in Pontotoc and West Point are part of the TVA Generation Partners program.
The Pontotoc facility will create 15 construction jobs and one permanent job to help operate and maintain it.
TVA does not have a nuclear plant or a major coal-fired generating plant in Mississippi, so smaller, innovative generation sites like Three Rivers’ landfill operation strengthens the state TVA counties’ ties to the larger valley power source network.
As Faucette noted, the technology to be used at Three Rivers has been successful in other countries.
There’s no reason to expect anything else at Three Rivers.