Landfills: An important renewable energy source

New landfill gas plant to open near Buffalo, Indiana

Environmental icon

Wabash Valley Power supports renewable energy by owning landfill gas generation and purchasing the output from wind farms and biogas generators. (Getty Images/Andrei Ureche)

Solar power and wind farms have long been used as renewable energy sources in the Midwest. But in 2002, Wabash Valley Power (WVPA) was one of the first utilities in the area to use a much more unexpected resource for green energy — landfills.

Built to minimize the impact on the environment, landfills have a unique ecosystem. Some materials, like plastics, are recyclable. Biodegradable materials such as food, leaves, and grass clippings can be removed and composted. It’s what’s left behind in the landfills that offers a great source for energy.

Converting landfill gas to energy

When plant and animal-based waste in the landfill decomposes, it creates a gas made up primarily of methane and carbon dioxide. To create electricity, this landfill gas is then captured, piped into underground vents, and sent to large engines where it’s burned. A typical Wabash Valley Power landfill gas plant will generate enough electricity to power a whopping 3,000 homes annually.

Now, after 14 years of providing this energy source, Wabash Valley Power will dedicate a new landfill gas plant in Buffalo, Indiana. In whole, the nonprofit’s 16 landfill gas plants will generate 53.6 MW of landfill gas electricity, enough to power 40,000 homes.*

reduces greenhouse gases, too

Besides powering homes, converting landfill gas to energy helps to reduce harmful methane gas emissions.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, getting rid of 300 cubic feet of landfill gas per minute — the amount found in approximately one million tons of waste — has the same effect as removing over 1,000 cars from the road for a year or planting nearly 5,000 acres of trees. When you add it up for Wabash Valley, it’s like removing over 55,000 cars from the road for a year or planting more than 250,000 acres of U.S. Forest.* Those figures should make us all breathe a little easier.

Wabash Valley Power

WVPA serves nearly two dozen electric cooperatives in Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri that together serve over 300,000 homes, schools, farms, and businesses. WVPA supports renewable energy by owning landfill gas generation and purchasing the output from wind farms and biogas generators. Wabash Valley Power sells, separately, the environmental attributes associated with this generation to its members and third parties, and, therefore, does not claim the generation as renewable within our own supply portfolio. To purchase renewable energy credits, contact your local co-op.

*Based on the EPA’s May 2016 greenhouse gas equivalencies calculator.

Wabash Valley Power opens 16th landfill gas plant

Wabash Valley Power, along with Carroll White REMC and Waste Management, will dedicate a new landfill gas plant and the Coonrod Substation on Oct. 28 at Liberty Landfill III near Buffalo, Indiana, just north of Monticello.

Wabash Valley Power currently operates two generating plants at this site, providing 6.4 megawatts. The new plant will generate an additional 6.4 megawatts of capacity, double the average of its other 15 landfill gas plants, providing a greener, more efficient energy solution in the Midwest.