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Wednesday, 21 December 2011 14:28

Haywood to cash in on landfill methane

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An alternative energy project to convert methane landfill gas into electricity will cost Haywood County a little extra after a wrench was thrown into the plans.

The county will have to fork over an additional $45,000 and bring in a new contractor to finish the job after the original company hired to do the work was unable to complete it.

In 2010, Haywood County embarked on a three-phase $1.2 million project to use methane gas emanating from the old Francis Farm Landfill near Waynesville.

KSD Enterprise was contracted in September 2011 to build a generator and its associated parts to convert the gas into electricity, which would then be sold on the power grid. However, it became evident that the company had not factored an integral part of the project — a system to actually connect the generator with the utility lines — into its bid and did not plan to supply it. Without it, the heating system would not work.

KSD Enterprise was the sole bidder on the contract and agreed to complete the job for about $45,600. Haywood County leaders were pleasantly surprised by the bid, which was lower than anticipated. As a result of a low bid to start with, the project will still come in below budget even with the extra cost for the missing component.

“They (KSD) are really the only provider who could meet our timeline,” said Mark Cathey, senior project manager with McGill Associates, which is overseeing the venture.

Now, the county must shell out an additional $45,750 to another company to manufacture and install the interconnector. The Haywood County Board of Commissioners approved a contract for the missing link with the Wake Forest-based PowerSecure Inc. at its Monday meeting.

The commissioners reduced the scope of KSD Enterprises’ contract to exclude the interconnector.

The county contends the original contract with KSD Enterprises stipulated that they would provide the interconnector. It could press the company to make good on providing the component, but such action would mean costly delays.

“We do not have the time frame to do that,” Cathey said.

The county must complete the project by April 15 in order to receive a $1 million grant from the N.C. State Energy Office — thus the cost of a lawsuit would severely outweigh the benefits.

The county does not want to jeopardize a $1 million grant to haggle about $45,000, said David Francis, a Haywood County tax administrator and solid waste committee member.

With the $1 million in state funds, the county will need only to chip in the remaining $200,000.

When the county put the project out to bid, it received only one response. It was somewhat pigeonholed by the terms of the grant and the state utility commission’s restrictions on generator sizes. Otherwise, the county might have gotten a greater response, Cathey said.

 

Methane power

The county kicked off the more than yearlong alternative energy project with the drilling of 21 gas extraction wells. The wells direct and funnel the flow of the gas, which would otherwise drift horizontally in the ground before rising into the air.

Even without the considerable funding boost from the state, the county would have been required by the Environmental Protection Agency to somehow dissipate or otherwise use the gas. Methane, a byproduct of decomposing trash, is a volatile pollutant that contributes to global warming.

Once the project is complete, methane will power a generator to make electricity. The county plans to sell the power to Haywood Electric Membership Corporation, which serves 25,000 customers in the Haywood area.

The county still doesn’t know how much gas the now-closed landfill will actually produce and therefore, don’t know how much money they will make on the sale of the resulting electricity to HEMC.

“We probably won’t know for a year because the landfill is so wet,” Francis said. Once the land dries, it will release the methane more quickly, he said, adding that the county should be able to profit off of the gas for 15 years.

 

In other news

The Haywood County Board of Commissioners met for two hours Monday to discuss and approve a myriad of county business items. Among them are:

• The county commissioners approved a resolution allowing the Haywood County Sheriff’s Department to enter into mutual aid agreements with other town and county law enforcement agencies. The agreements will set guidelines for how and when these agencies will cross jurisdictional lines to fight crime.

• A public hearing regarding the revised Flood Hazard Development Ordinance, new flood maps and a flood insurance study at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 23 prior to the commissioner meeting.

• The county will hire three full-time night custodians, a cost of about $94,000, to clean the new county building, formerly the old Walmart.

• The Haywood County Animal Welfare Association will receive $32,000 during the coming year from the N.C. State Spay/Neuter Program. The association is a nonprofit that provides low or no-cost spay and neuter services for low-income pet owners.

• Haywood County will get $459,635 from selling the property occupied by Smoky Mountain Mental Health Center to the agency. The mental health agency had leased two buildings on 1.79 acres of county-owned land for years but will now purchase it.

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