WILKES-BARRE – The Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday issued air quality and waste management permits to Bethlehem Renewable Energy LLC for a 5.7-megawatt power plant that will burn landfill gas in Lower Saucon Township, Northampton County.
“This innovative proposal will put a waste resource to use to help power our economy and provide a clean, cheap energy supply,” said DEP Northeast Regional Director Michael Bedrin. “Supporting the increased development of landfill methane gas demonstrates how environmental protection can drive economic development.”
Methane captured from landfills can be transformed into a cost-effective fuel source to power an engine that generates electricity. Electricity produced with landfill gas helps to feed the grid that powers commonwealth homes and businesses, and this energy supply diversity helps to enhance security and keep overall energy costs low.
Bethlehem Renewable’s 5.7-megawatt plant will produce enough electricity to power more than 4,500 homes and offset the need for 6,400 tons of coal and 28,500 barrels of oil each year.
The company submitted its permit applications to DEP in early 2005 to use landfill gas generated at the nearby IESI Landfill in Lower Saucon Township to run a combustion turbine generator. DEP held a public hearing on both applications on June 2006.
The permits include conditions that require stack testing on the unit immediately after construction, and then every six months for a two-year period. Stack testing then must be done bi-annually to ensure the integrity and maintenance of air quality controls.
In addition, DEP also has approved IESI’s application to amend its solid waste operating permits to reflect changes in the use of the gas. This amendment allows IESI to keep the existing flares to burn any landfill gas beyond the capacity of the turbines or to use if the turbine is offline for any reason.
Gov. Edward G. Rendell has focused efforts on capturing landfill gas and piping it directly to serve businesses to keep jobs in Pennsylvania. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized Pennsylvania as the State Partner of the Year in 2005, citing the commonwealth’s financial and technical support for developing landfill methane use.
DEP previously streamlined permitting processes both for landfill gas recovery systems and end users to encourage and foster use of the resource. In September, DEP and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation worked to make highway right-of-ways available for landfill gas pipeline projects, further encouraging and promoting the recovery and use of this emerging source of renewable energy.
Pennsylvania is home to 24 operational gas-to-energy projects. DEP estimates these projects generate 60 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 38,000 homes for a year. The state’s landfill-gas-to-energy projects reduce emissions equivalent to taking 47,027 cars off the road, offset the use of 1,202 railcars of coal, prevent the use of 570,332 barrels of oil and equal the beneficial effect of planting 72,448 acres of forest.
Additional Pennsylvania support for development of landfill gas projects includes the Pennsylvania Landfill Methane Database to catalog landfills and landfill gas projects so that access to this energy feedstock is made easy. The DEP also worked with EPA to develop a Primer for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for Developing Landfill Gas Utilization.
Landfill gas was also included as a preferred energy source in the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard created by Rendell and the legislature. The standard ensures that 18 percent of the state’s electrical power will come from alternative energy sources within 15 years. By including landfill gas in the standard, Pennsylvania gave electricity providers a strong incentive to invest in landfill gas projects.