Landfill Gas Passed to Local School

Antioch Community High School in Illinois may have achieved many distinctions during the past school year. But none can offer greater bragging rights than being the first high school in the United States to draw heat and electrical power from a local landfill. Actually, the power source is a now-closed landfill, which is only about one-half mile from the school.

05/01/2004


Antioch Community High School in Illinois may have achieved many distinctions during the past school year. But none can offer greater bragging rights than being the first high school in the United States to draw heat and electrical power from a local landfill.

Actually, the power source is a now-closed landfill, which is only about one-half mile from the school. The site already had a gas-collection system to capture methane produced naturally by decomposing waste. But until the completion of this project, the landfill's methane was not being put to any use; it was being flared.

After months of planning, installation and commissioning, the project team from Madison, Wis.-based RMT, Inc., an environmental engineering firm and unit of Alliant Energy, brought the project to a successful completion. But when one takes into account all efforts for financing and launching this project, other key players included Waste Management, Inc.; Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity; Unison Solutions; Commonwealth Edison; the U.S. EPA; and the Village of Antioch.

The project demonstrates how innovative partnerships and thinking can turn a seeming liability into an asset. "We're going to be able to recycle, save money for the taxpayers and help the environment," says Bill Ahlers, business manager for Antioch Community High School District 117. Additionally, the high school will benefit with lower energy costs; use of waste heat; clean, complete combustion of waste gas; and decreased emissions.

And, there is one other benefit, no less important than those described above: the educational value. A state-of-the-art, on-campus system for landfill gas recovery offers an important teaching tool for the study of physics, chemistry, economics and environmental management.

The school's power system consists of a dozen 30-kW microturbines generating a total 360 kW of heat and power for the 262,000-sq.-ft. school—enough energy to power 120 homes. This translates into an annual savings of more than $100,000. All unused electrical power is sold to Commonwealth Edison, the local utility.

The same degree of resourcefulness that went into engineering the project was also applied to the financing effort. A grant application was completed and submitted to the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Community Affairs (now Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity) in April 2002. ACHS was subsequently awarded a $550,000 grant from the state's Renewable Energy Resources Program (RERP) to design and construct the facility. The school district will fund the rest by issuing a revenue bond.

The $1.9 million project became operational in October 2003. This year, RMT garnered three major awards for the project: U.S. EPA's Landfill Methane Project of the Year, an American Council of Engineering Companies' Honor Award and an ACEC Wisconsin Chapter Grand Award.

"The project is truly unique and will make the most of a valuable energy resource," says Mark Torresani, RMT's project manager.





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