HOLLY SPRINGS — Surry County is poised to be on the cutting edge of environmental protection, and make a little bit of pocket change, when the landfill starts generating electricity late next month.
According to Dennis Bledsoe, the county’s public works director, things are moving along on schedule, and the project to generate electricity using naturally-produced methane gas should be in operation by late February.
“Right now, we’re expecting the project to go commercial at the end of next month,” he said Tuesday.
Bledsoe said two transformers have been delivered, and the equipment necessary to crank the 2,250 horsepower, 20-cylinder generation motor will be in place later this month.
“After the initial cranking, we’re going to need two or three weeks to test the equipment and make sure it’s running properly,” he said.
The system’s blower is expected any day, and the necessary switches and additional transformers will be in place “sometime late this month or early next month,” Bledsoe said.
The necessary air permits from the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources have been secured as well, he added.
“So sometime in February we’re expecting the system to have been tried and tested, and we’re hoping to be generating electricity,” he said.
Output from the system is expected to be around 1.6 megawatts, or “the equivalent of supplying between 900 and 925 homes.”
Expansion of the project is down the road.
“There are now plans to drill additional wells on the old closed landfill site as well as the current location, located in the newer section of the landfill,” Bledsoe said.
The project, one of the first in this area, will collect methane gas that is released as a natural by-product of decomposition, clean it and use it to create energy.
Under the gas-to-energy project, Petra Engineering is installing the collection system, which will harvest the methane gas and direct it to the 20-cylinder engine.
The engine was designed specifically by Caterpillar for methane collection, and once in operation will use the gas to produce 2,250 horsepower, which in turn will power a 1,600-kilowatt generator.
Bledsoe called the system a win/win for the county.
“I feel really good about this project,” he said. “We’re taking a natural resource provided to us by God and using it for the benefit of the people rather than disbursing it into the air as waste.”
According to Bledsoe, methane gas is 21 times more harmful to the ozone layer than the carbon monoxide emitted by vehicles.
The project is costing the county nothing, according to the public works director.
Barnabas Investment Group LLC is installing and operating the landfill gas collection system, which will collect the gas and use it as fuel to generate electricity.
The county will receive revenue from the company, through structured annual payments from the firm, for the first seven years of the project. After that time the county will receive 25 percent of net revenues from years eight through 20 of the project.
The contract also stipulates that the county could purchase the energy generation system in the future.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.