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Conclusion

After completing this work over the course of the summer, I was able to contact people who operate the I-95 landfill in Fairfax County, Virginia.   I later met with Amarjit Riat, Wayne Hedges, and Chris Meoli, who are experts in the field of landfill gas to energy.   They showed us their facilities, in which they are currently generating a great deal of electricity.   They were extremely helpful and were willing to consult with us in the future to help guide our efforts so we do not repeat their mistakes.   To find a source so willing to contribute information about every aspect of the project is a relief and will make any additional work much easier, whether that work is done by me or anyone else.

It was nice to receive so much help, but it was unfortunate that it had come so late in our project.   Now, at least, we have sources who can answer our questions so we can consider, more accurately, the practicality of our projects.   I am unsure if any type of system can be put in place at the Montgomery County landfill because of the extensive gas treatment system that would have to be installed.   That particular landfill has a high concentration of siloxanes and moisture in the landfill gas.   A blower system might also be required to ensure a constant flow rate of landfill gas that feeds the generators.

If the project is to be pursued, the Ford generators Model 01735 and 01738 may be the best for our application.   However, for larger landfills that want to make money off of landfill gas to energy, the bigger Caterpillar and Waukesha generators may be better choices.   These two companies are already building engines especially designed to run off of landfill gas.  

Using a net-metering system (in which electricity is sold to the utility at times and bought from the utility at other times) will permit landfill operators to derive the most income while running the generator efficiently at a constant speed.   In addition, more work needs to be done to pinpoint the exact hardware requirements to interface with the grid and allow power to flow safely from the generator into the grid.   The greatest frustration of this project was finding the information needed to understand the grid interconnection.   It seems that this information is a closely guarded secret among those "in the know" and the availability of any information is scarce.

Finally, it is important to discuss whether using landfill gas is a viable energy source that should be pursued.   I believe that it is quite possible for landfills to produce and sell electricity to power companies, but that this ability must be assessed on an individual basis.   Such a landfill project appears to require large capital costs.   The cost for the generator is not high, but to treat the gas prior to its combustion and to condition the electricity before it goes to the power grid appears to be an expensive and complicated venture.   These two aspects of the project will be the most difficult to complete, and no single gas treatment system can be used for all landfills.   These systems must be made to treat the specific parameters of the local landfill gas.   I think that some operators--especially those with large landfills--may find that their capital costs will be recovered quickly.   The financial rewards of small landfill methane-to-energy projects may be more uncertain.  

So, despite great hopes to get this project up and running by the end of the summer, we are left with the need to do further work.   We were especially frustrated by a few experiences:

•  The inability to locate easily the proper hardware for both generating electricity and for connecting to the grid.  

•  The lack of knowledge (or interest) among companies to provide such knowledge. Clearly, we are not the first researchers or entrepreneurs to conceive of such a project.   Why has it been so difficult to find people who can help us?

•  The difficulty in obtaining and "decoding" information about the requirements from the utility to do the interconnection.   After an initial positive response from the utility representative, we failed to receive follow-up information.  

Overall, it appears that the lack of useful (and easily forthcoming) information and expertise in this DG project serves as a huge impediment.   The concept of a landfill-to-energy project appears simple and straightforward.   In practice, though, the nontechnical hurdles (lack of information, difficulty in dealing with companies, etc.) make us wonder if such a project can be successfully completed.