“The landfill gas project is a very important part of UNC’s near-term strategies for carbon reduction,” Chancellor Holden Thorp said. “In collaboration with Orange County, this project will enable UNC to use a locally available fuel which would otherwise be wasted.”
With this project, methane gas from the Orange County landfill that is currently being released into the atmosphere – and contributing to global warming – will be captured and converted into electrical energy. The University will gain carbon credits for reducing pollution, which will help the campus honor the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment to be climate neutral by 2050. The project is one strategy in the 2009 Climate Action Plan to reduce UNC’s carbon footprint to zero by 2050.
Methane, which is many times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, will be destructed by flaring in this first phase of the project. The installation of the gas collection and flaring system will begin this month and is expected to be operational in July 2011. In the second phase, UNC will pipe the landfill gas to a generator for producing electricity to power its complex of buildings along Airport Drive. The 1,000-kilowatt power generation system, expected to be operational in early 2012, also may be an energy source for the first buildings constructed at Carolina North.
“We are very pleased that county staff has come forward and with University staff have conceived and now are making this project a reality,” said Valerie Foushee, chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners. “Orange County and the University make a strong team and it is my hope that other mutually beneficial projects will be jointly pursued in the future.”
Orange County has been investigating landfill gas recovery opportunities since the late 1990s, Foushee added. Only within the past four to five years has the regulatory and economic climate made gas recovery from small landfills feasible. UNC and Orange County reached an agreement on the project in 2009, with the University paying the county for use of the methane gas.
The project offers these benefits to the University and Orange County:
- Reduction in carbon emissions through methane destruction;
- Offsets from avoided purchased power;
- Beneficial use of otherwise vented landfill gas;
- Revenue stream to Orange County; and
- Advancement of UNC carbon-neutrality goals.
The total emissions reduction as a result of the project is equivalent to any one of the following:
- Annual greenhouse gas emissions from 8,000 passenger vehicles;
- Carbon sequestered annually by 9,000 acres of pine forest;
- Carbon dioxide emissions from burning 200 railcars worth of coal; or
- Carbon dioxide emissions from 4.7 million gallons of gasoline consumed.
Landfill gas collection and treatment system handout: http://uncnews.unc.edu/images/stories/news/campus/2010/unc%20landfill%20gas%20dedication%20handout%20ver%2002.pdf
UNC 2009 Climate Action Plan: http://www.climate.unc.edu/CAP/cap2009
UNC Energy Services contact: Ray DuBose, (919) 966-4100