A recently completed project in Regina, Sask. is proving that one person's trash is another's power. The facility takes waste gas produced by garbage at the city's landfill and converts it into electricity. The city officially unveiled the Landfill Gas to Energy Facility last month.
The facility collects methane gas, produced from the decomposition of organic waste in the landfill, and uses it to fuel an engine to generate one megawatt of electricity, enough to power 1,000 homes.
"The City of Regina is excited to partner with SaskPower using these innovative, clean and safe processes to turn existing waste to energy," said Mayor Michael Fougere in a statement. "This project demonstrates our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and seeking partnerships with organizations who are also committed to environmentally responsible action."
City of Regina director of solid waste, Lisa Legault, explained that the city initially started collecting gas in 2008 for flaring. The city installed 27 wells, piping that is drilled vertically into the landfill which are connected to a blower that sucks the gas out of the landfill for flaring.
"I've described it as sucking through a straw," said Legault.
The collected system had been built with the intent of partnering with a company that wanted to use the gas to produce hydrogen. But the company never delivered.
"In an effort to reduce the amount of gas emissions we flared the methane off and waited until something happened," Legault said.
An opportunity presented itself in 2011 when the city became aware of SaskPower's Green Options Partners Program which was looking for municipalities and First Nations to propose green energy options. After a request for proposal process, a company in Budapest called Gas Drive was selected. The city was also able to view how the same system worked in Granby, Que.
To design the project and prepare the site took about a year. This included finding an appropriate site to access the existing gas collection facility as well as the SaskPower grid.
The project was manufactured in Budapest and then sent over in two shipping containers which were craned into place. Gas Drive employees and other contractors helped assemble the project. Crews also installed a bypass valve to the flare system which Legault noted will come in handy in six years when the engine will need servicing.
The two containers sit next to each other. One has a gas conditioning unit that cools the gas to the appropriate temperature. Moisture and contaminants are also removed.
"Landfill gas is unlike a natural gas, it has a lot of contaminates in it, we need to clean it," said Legault. "This is so it doesn't mess up the generating unit."
The gas then goes into the reciprocating engine and the energy it creates goes to the generator and produces electricity.
"We're happy to partner with the City of Regina on this project, which adds a megawatt of power to our grid as demand continues to grow," said SaskPower president and CEO Mike Marsh in a release.
The City of Regina and SaskPower have entered into a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement to buy from the new facility. The power produced by this facility will generate approximately $1 million in revenue for the city each year. The cost to build the facility was just under the estimated budget of $5 million.
"This new facility reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions by about 30,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent of taking 8,000 vehicles off the road," added Legault.
This system closely aligns with the goals outlined in Design Regina: The Official Community Plan, by exploring processes where waste and waste byproducts of one activity are used as a resource for another.