Source: Sherman Publications

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Eagle Valley selling renewable energy

September 28, 2011

Township Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel, other local dignitaries and Eagle Valley officials open the plant. Photo by G. Ouzounian
By Joe St. Henry

Review Editor

Extra gas is turning into more cash at the Eagle Valley landfill.

Waste Management, parent company of the Orion Township operation, opened its new onsite gas-to-energy facility last week. The $6.5 million plant converts methane gas generated at the recycling and disposal site into electricity purchased by DTE Energy.

The power plant, located off of Giddings Road, is being hailed by state, county and township officials as an example of multiple entities working together to produce renewable "green" energy.

"This plant represents the evolution of our efforts to protect and enhance the environment," said Orion Township Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel. "Waste Management is taking a product (methane gas) that was a problem in our area, due to its smell, flaring and other complaints, and is now using it to not only power GM across the street, but convert the rest into electrical power to benefit all."

Orion Township Board Trustee Mike Flood said, "This is a good business move by a good neighbor to help protect the environment and generate an alternative energy source." Trustee Neal Porter concurred and added he would like to see the power plant's capabilities expand further.

As an added benefit, Van Tassel said the power-generation facility will augment the township's tax base.

Deputy County Executive Matt Gibb remarked Oakland County's focus on emerging markets is directly aligned with projects like the new gas-to-energy power plant. The operation is but the latest addition to the county's alternative energy business corridor, he said.

"Thanks to the forward thinking of Orion Township, this renewable energy power plant will be an asset to the community for years to come," he said.

Fueled by 1,200 cubic feet per minute of combustible landfill gas, the plant is designed to generate 3.2 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the equivalent of 2,700 Michigan homes.

According to John Myers, Waste Management's director of operations for the Michigan market area, the company has gas-to-energy operations at ten of 13 landfills in the state.

Myers said one of the keys to building the power plant was the 20-year-commitment DTE Energy made to purchase the electricity generated at Eagle Valley. Myers added utilities are now more interested in renewable energy sources than in the past.

The U.S. Environmental Protection has endorsed landfill gas as an environmentally friendly resource that reduces society's reliance on coal, oil and other fossil fuels.

"As Michigan and the rest of the nation look to invest in renewable energy, landfill gas is becoming more attractive because it is reliable," said Chuck Cassie, senior district manager in charge of the Eagle Valley landfill.

In addition to supplying electricity to DTE Energy's power grid, Eagle Valley has supplied landfill gas to the GM Orion Plant since 1999, which it uses to fuel its power system.

"This process enables us to extract value from the waste," he said, noting as the landfill has grown, more gas is produced than GM needs; the power plant enables them to do something useful with it. Nationwide, Waste Management operates such gas-to-electricity facilities at 130 landfills.