After years in the making, there were smiles all around at the Surry County Landfill Friday afternoon as officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting on a project touted as “turning yesterday’s waste into today’s energy.”
The ribbon-cutting was for a long-anticipated project that officials say will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the county while at the same time making the county a little money.
Known as the Gas To Energy project, the initiative captures methane gas released as a natural by-product of decomposition, cleans it and uses it to create energy.
Wayne Marshall, CEO of Petra Engineering, which installed the collection system, noted during the ceremony that the project has been on the drawing board or in the construction phase for nearly two years.
“And they’ve been an active couple of years,” he said with a laugh.
But Marshall noted that county officials have been fully supportive of the plan since its inception.
“It’s been our pleasure to be a part of this project from day one,” he said. “Because this is about a common-sense approach to stewardship of the environment.”
Petra Engineering installed the collection system, which harvests the methane gas and directs it to a 20-cylinder engine.
The engine, designed specifically by Caterpillar for methane collection, will use the gas to produce 2,250 horsepower, turning the engine to power a 1,600-kilowatt generator.
Officials say the facility will produce enough energy to power 945 homes. It first went operational on June 1, and is producing energy that is being sold to Duke Energy.
Marshall said the project, one of the first public-private initiatives in the county, was “set up to ensure the county receives benefits for years to come.”
“Today’s ribbon-cutting marks the start of commercial operations to convert a naturally-occurring gas into usable energy,” he said, noting that the project is a win-win for everyone involved.
“Surry County will now be reducing its greenhouse gas initiatives the equivalent of taking 13,000 cars off the road,” Marshall added.
County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eddie Harris echoed Marshall, saying the benefits of the privately-funded project would be felt for years to come.
“This is a great thing for Surry County,” he said, standing in front of the massive engine. “It’s a classic example of how private companies can have a lasting partnership with public entities.
“The number of homes this will fuel in Surry County is an example of real progress in our community. This is green energy at work,” Harris added.
The county will receive revenue from Barnabas Investment Group through structured payments from the firm for the first seven years. After that time, the county will receive 25 percent of net revenues from years eight through 20 of the project.
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.