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 cause extreme problems for the environment and health. Like so many other things, landfills have a role in finding alternative forms of energy.
It is not commonly known, but landfills can be sources of energy. The organic waste in landfills produces methane gas as it decomposes or rots.
Methane is the energy-rich gas that is found in natural gas, and is colorless and odorless. Apparently, every person in America produces 4.5 pounds of trash per day, which ends up in landfills that are categorized as the largest human-related source of methane gas. The methane gas from landfills is collected as a pollution and safety measure. However, this gas can be used to provide an alternative energy source. The methane gas collected is burned in a controlled environment to get rid of it. However, this gas can be collected treated, and sold as commercial fuel, or it can be burned to generate steam and electricity.
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.
Currently, there are at least 400 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.
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. The methane gas from landfills poisons the environment and is a great contributor to global warming. 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. The EPA 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.
Landfill gas may have a 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 may become very important in our search for alternative energy resources.