A New Renewable Energy Source Tapped...

Omaha Public Power District Finds Power in Trash

Elk City, Nebraska Methane Gas Plant
Elk City, Nebraska Methane Gas Plant

Old trash is now getting a second life because of Omaha Public Power District's and Waste Management's new methane gas power plant at the Douglas County landfill near Elk City. Decomposing garbage that fuels the plant is expected to generate about 25 million kilowatthours of electricity a year, enough for more than 2,000 homes.

Governor Johanns joined the dedication of the $4 million plant in May. "Be it wind or waste, our public power leaders are finding renewable energy right here in Nebraska," said Governor Johanns, who added that by mining Nebraska's renewable resources, the state's utilities help the state economically. "Each kilowatt of electricity produced from local resources such as wind or garbage means less coal will be needed from Wyoming or natural gas from Kansas and Oklahoma," said the Governor.

The new plant, called the Elk City Station, joins a 660,000-watt wind turbine in Power District's renewable energy program, which is finding a receptive audience in the utility's customers. Both plants are part of the utility's Green Power program. According to the utility, more than 2,500 customers have signed up to support green power. The customers underwrite the additional cost of producing electricity through renewable sources.

Waste Management, Inc., operates the Douglas County landfill and the new plant for OPPD. The company supplies landfill gas to 69 similar plants around the country. Around 325 landfills around the nation produce energy.

According to Waste Management, the methane gas produced by the decomposing garbage will power four 800 kilowatt internal combustion engine generators. A system of wells collects the gas and channels it to a container for filtering, compressing and processing. It then is piped to the generators where the electricity is produced. In the past, methane produced at the landfill was burned off.

The plant has been producing energy since April 1 and is expected to operate 24 hours a day. Energy output is expected to grow with the landfill to as large as ten times its current 3.2 megawatts. Sometime in August, the Elk City plant is expected to produce its 10 millionth kilowatthour.

More information on OPPD's Green Program can be found at OPPD's Green Program.