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Planned Methane-to-Energy Project at City Landfill Stalls

Lebanon — Financial difficulties weighing on a Vermont-based company have snagged a potential methane-to-electricity project at the landfill that would provide relief for noses and wallets across the city.

The methane gas-capture project would have turned the odorous gas produced by decomposition into electricity to be sold back into the city grid, potentially saving the city up to $60,000 a year. It was to be built by Carbon Harvest Energy — a renewable energy company based in Burlington — but the company recently furloughed six of its 11 workers.

“It’s beyond our control,” Lebanon Solid Waste Manager George Murray said of the project’s status. “We were really close, that’s what’s frustrating, as far as permitting goes.”

According to a city news release, “investor evaluation has slowed forward movement” with the landfill project, but the city expects to have more information in the next four to six weeks.

“It is the city’s understanding that private investors providing financial resources to Carbon Harvest are in the process of evaluating if it would be in their best interest to develop this project from this point forward for financial and tax purposes,” the release said.

In October, when news of the company’s financial woes first hit, Don McCormick, president of Carbon Harvest Energy, said rumors that the company would need to close were “greatly exaggerated.” When reached by email this week, McCormick declined to comment on the financial issues.

Murray said the city would consider other companies for a similar project if current plans fall through. He said the Pennsylvania Power and Light utility company has installed gas-capture generators across the Northeast, including in the town of Colebrook, N.H., near the Canada border.

As for the status of the Carbon Harvest project, Murray said, that was a “wait and see.”

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved quickly,” he said.

The project was granted final approval by the Planning Board in July, and the city recently received the permits needed from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to construct the generator and piping infrastructure at the landfill.

While both Carbon Harvest and the city expected construction to be completed by now, a final air permit from the state environmental services department has still not yet been issued.

That means, even if the company managed to get itself on secure financial footing, construction would not be scheduled to start until spring or early summer of 2013.

A later phase of the project would have hooked up the energy supply to power aquaculture in “aquaponic greenhouses” at the landfill site in partnership with the Environmental Studies Program at Dartmouth College.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213