On March 5th, 2011, SEI visited the Coffin Butte Landfill to tour their renewable energy generation station. The site is located just outside of Corvallis, by one of Oregon’s largest, busiest landfills.
Landfills produce methane gas as a byproduct of decomposition of trash. EPA regulations require that landfill operators capture this gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas, and particles in the gas cause foul odors which residents near landfills do not want to smell. Many landfills just burn off this gas, but it can be fed into generators and used to generate electricity instead.
The Coffin Butte project was started in 1995 with three generators, and was expanded in 2007 to include two newer generators. The plant now produces 5.66 megawatts of electricity; enough to power about 4000 homes. Although it is expensive to build and maintain these plants, it ends up being an economical method of energy generation as the methane already must be captured, and Coffin Butte is paid back by the power company for any power they put onto the grid.
SEI thanks the Coffin Butte Resource Project for the opportunity to tour their site and learn more about this renewable energy source. For more information, visit their website.