Landfill Gas as a Source of Alternative Energy


Waste disposal is both necessary and harmful, and is one of the most expensive global problems. Today, waste is either land filled or incinerated, but land filling waste causes extreme problems for the environment and health. Like so many other things, landfills have a role to play in finding alternative forms of energy.

How Landfill Gas is Formed

Landfill gas is a byproduct of the natural decomposition process of organic waste materials in landfills. As organic waste decomposes, it releases a mixture of gases, including methane, carbon dioxide, and traces of other gases such as nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen.

Methane is the energy-rich gas that is found in natural gas and is colorless and odorless. Landfill gas is typically composed of 50% to 60% methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Apparently, every single person produces around 4.5 pounds of trash per day, which ends up in landfills that are categorized as the largest human-related source of methane gas.

How MCUA turns landfill gas into energy

Management of Landfill Gas

Landfill gas is often considered a nuisance to landfill operators due to its potential to cause explosions, fire hazards, and odors, but it can also be harnessed as a source of renewable energy. The methane gas collected is burned in a controlled environment to get rid of it. However, this gas can also be collected, treated, and sold as commercial fuel, or it can be burned to generate steam and electricity.

The production of landfill gas can continue for several years, even after a landfill has been decommissioned, as the decomposition process can take decades to complete.

The theory of using landfills as an energy source was tested in 2003 when the East Kentucky Power Cooperative began collecting the methane gas from three landfills. The company used the gas to generate 8.8 megawatts of electricity, which is enough electricity to power 7,500 to 8,500 homes. As of 2019, East Kentucky had five landfill gas plants.

Currently, (as of August 2022), there are at least 538 operating landfill gas energy projects in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tested the conditions of landfills across the United States and found that nearly every state had at least one landfill that would be able to produce methane gas for use as an alternative form of energy. All of these projects generate electricity, heat, or fuel from landfill gas. In addition, there are a further 470 candidate landfills across the US that could be used in the future.

As of 2021, there were 455 operational landfill gas-to-energy projects in the UK. These projects vary in size and technology, with some generating electricity that is fed into the grid, while others produce heat or fuel for on-site use.

How Do Landfills Produce Electricity☀️ Landfill Gas Clean Energy

Environmental Impact of Landfill Gas

The gases found in landfills may be great for producing energy, but if left on their own, they can be hazardous to the environment and human health. Landfill gas is a potent greenhouse gas, primarily composed of methane, which has a global warming potential 28 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.

Methane emissions from landfills can contribute significantly to climate change.

To stop the process of polluting the earth, the landfill gas collection system was developed with energy conversion stations, which are used to convert the methane gas into steam, electricity, or pipeline grade gas.

The EPA plays a major role in the plan to convert methane gas from landfills into an alternative energy source. They formed the Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) in 1994.

The leader of the LMOP believes that methane gas from landfills is both a pollutant greenhouse gas and a source of energy, as it offers the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide energy to the United States.

The EPA has encouraged the capture of methane gases from landfills, as well as the capture of the energy that is produced from it. It is the EPA’s job to work with the communities of the United States and to help them realize the energy potential in their landfills.

The Future of Land Fill Gas

Landfill gas has a good chance as an alternative energy source, but there are some disadvantages to this source of energy.

First, landfill and methane gas projects are site-specific. Landfill gas is not always the most cost-effective alternative energy source, but this generally depends on the needs of the project.

The methane gas from landfills cannot replace gasoline, and for the United States, cannot replace foreign oil.

The gas is also cheaper than natural gas, but it has less than half the heating capacity.

However, when used in the proper conditions, there may be no visible problems when using landfill gas for an alternative energy source.

Landfills are disgusting and hazardous, but they have become very important in our search for alternative energy resources.