SECCRA Power produces electricity from landfill gas
State, federal, and local officials helped officially commission “SECCRA Power,” an electricity-generating station at the Southeastern Chester County Refuse Authority (SECCRA) that uses what was once a waste byproduct to produce “green energy.”
Rachel Goldstein, regional manager of the Landfill Methane Outreach Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, joined Richard Cairns, chairman of the SECCRA Board of Directors, and other officials at a ceremony marking the start of operations at SECCRA Power in January 2007.
The facility generates 1.8 megawatts of electricity on a continuous basis, roughly the amount of electricity it takes to run 1,100 homes, and will sell it to the PJM power grid.
SECCRA has invested over $3 million in the facility, including two grants totalling $750,000 from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority.
The project includes a gas-collection system in the landfill, two generators that run on landfill gas, a power line connection to the grid, and an electronic monitoring system. Landfill gas, mostly composed of methane, is a byproduct of decomposing waste.
Cairns thanked the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for backing SECCRA’s grant applications. “The grants were significant in helping us afford the capital costs.” He also thanked Goldstein and the EPA for creating greater awareness and general support for landfill gas-to-energy projects.
Cairns said revenue from the sale of electricity and the sale of renewable energy credits earned from the project were expected to pay back the full investment in about seven years and then the income would be used to hold down the cost of waste disposal for SECCRA customers.
SECCRA is moving ahead with plans to add a third generator at the facility in the near future to further boost the revenue potential.
“The electricity we’re producing is considered green energy because we’re using a renewable resource,” Cairns explained. “As long as the landfill is in operation—and for about 15 years afterward—there will be enough landfill gas to make a significant amount of electricity.”
Many landfills that don’t use their gas as commercial fuel generally burn it off into the atmosphere with flares. “Since methane, the primary component, is a greenhouse gas, we’re also gaining a secondary benefit from using it as fuel,” Cairns said. “We’re doing our part to protect the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
SECCRA, a non-profit municipal authority with a publicly appointed board of directors, provides solid waste disposal and recycling for about 90,000 residents in the southern third of Chester County.