Lebanon landfill gas-to-energy plan advances

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/8/2019 10:27:53 PM
Modified: 12/8/2019 10:32:48 PM

WEST LEBANON — A long-awaited effort to convert methane gas to energy at the Lebanon landfill could be operational by the end of 2020, reducing the city’s reliance on fossil fuels and contributing energy back into the grid.

The City Council will decide later this month whether to bond an additional $1.5 million needed to complete the project, which was first proposed about 15 years ago and is expected to cost $4.4 million.

Officials last year set aside $2.8 million of landfill funds in anticipation of construction, City Manager Shaun Mulholland said last week.

“If we get the project done by December, we will offset the city’s entire (energy needs) with renewable energy,” he told the City Council in a CATV recording of its meeting last Wednesday.

The city proposes to use micro-turbine generators to turn methane emitted from the landfill into electricity. Lebanon plans to use most of the energy to power its municipal buildings. The remainder will be sold back into Liberty Utilities’ system.

Officials predict that sales of energy to the utility would produce $130,000 in revenue annually, or about $5 million over its 20-year lifespan.

Mulholland said those figures are “conservative,” suggesting the city could likely see greater payments if the project goes forward.

“I’m very optimistic and confident that (the project) will be able to produce power that procures a greater positive cash flow,” Assistant Mayor Clifton Below said on Friday.

Below, a former member of the Public Utilities Commission, said the gas-to-energy project is a “long time coming,” adding it will put the city’s existing resources to good use.

City Councilor Karen Liot Hill also called the project “exciting,” but said the city should identify ways to replenish the $2.8 million already directed to construction.

“I think it would be prudent for us to make sure that those savings are built back up to cover future expenses at the landfill,” she said.

The project has hit several hurdles since 2011 when the city contracted Burlington-based company Carbon Harvest Energy to develop a methane-to-energy system.

That agreement began to fall apart a year later when Carbon Harvest furloughed six of its 11 employees. The firm subsequently filed for bankruptcy in 2013.

Since then, city officials have continued to collect data and install some of the infrastructure needed for a future gas-to-energy project.

A gas flare system installed in 2013 and 2015 to address foul smells emanating from the roughly 30-acre landfill could be used as part of a larger collection process, officials said at the time.

Lebanon decided to take another crack at the project last year when it spent $468,850 to hire Randolph-based firm DuBois & King to design, bid and manage construction.

That partnership allowed the city to explore 12 different options for the landfill, Marc Morgan, Lebanon’s solid waste manager, said last week.

“I think the direction we’re going in is reasonable and is based on information and data that is real,” he in the CATV recording.

The City Council is expected to vote on the $1.5 million bond on Dec. 18. If that is approved, construction on the project could begin as early as May 2020.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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