Study Shows That Landfill Gases Could Power The Equivalent of 3,000 Maui Homes Per Year

Study: Landfill gases could be used as energy source

February 13, 2011 – By ILIMA LOOMIS, Staff Writer
Article from: The Maui News

WAILUKU – Converting those stinky gases from the Central Maui Landfill into electricity could create enough energy to power the equivalent of up to 3,000 Maui homes per year, according to a county-commissioned study.

The 2010 study by engineering consultant A-Mehr Inc. estimated it would cost around $12.6 million to develop a 3.2-megawatt gas-to-energy facility at the landfill or around $8.6 million for a smaller, 1.6-megawatt facility. The report will be reviewed by the Maui County Council Infrastructure Management Committee on Monday, at a meeting that also will include a presentation by the county Department of Environmental Management.

The county already has installed a system to collect and control gas emissions from the Central Maui Landfill, and officials now are evaluating alternatives for using the gases as a renewable energy source, the report notes.

Landfill gases can be used in a variety of ways, including electrical generation and conversion into a high-BTU fuel, according to the report. In addition to providing a source of renewable energy, harnessing the gases is beneficial because it reduces greenhouse-gas emissions and can generate revenue from the sale of the electricity.

According to the study, if waste continues to be disposed of in the landfill at current rates, the gases could generate from 1.6 to 3.2 megawatts, equivalent to the energy use of 1,500 to 3,000 typical Maui homes, the report says.

But if refuse were diverted to a waste-to-energy facility in 2015, as proposed in the county’s Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan, landfill gases would generate less energy – from 0.7 to 1.6 megawatts, or about what it would take to power 700 to 1,500 Maui homes.

The county could develop the gas into a resource either by producing its own electrical power right at the landfill, or by selling the gases to a third party, the report says.

It notes the only known potential buyer on-island would be the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. mill at Puunene. The company would need to invest in an expensive retrofit of its boiler systems in order to use the new energy source, but HC&S has expressed interest in potentially participating in an electric-power-generation project, according to the report.

The consultants recommend that the county move forward with a project to convert landfill gases into energy, but only after it determines whether the county will operate such a facility itself or work with a third party on the project.

The Infrastructure Management Committee will meet at 9 a.m. in eighth-floor Council Chambers of the Kalana O Maui building.