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MCLB Albany inks 1st landfill gas to energy project in Corps

By Pamela Jackson | | December 23, 2009

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After years of working hard, planning, strategizing and negotiating, the long awaited landfill gas to energy partnership between Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Ga., and Dougherty County was officially signed Monday.

Officials from MCLB Albany attended the work session of the Dougherty County Commission to make one last presentation prior to commissioners taking a formal vote on the partnership.  A unanimous vote of approval was later taken at a specially-called meeting immediately following the work session.

The official signing inked the deal on a 20-year partnership, which allows the county to sell landfill gas produced at the Fleming/Gaissert Road Landfill, to MCLB.  The LFG will be used to operate a 1.9 megawatt combined heat and power generator, which allows for cost effective use of the LFG asset at the landfill.

“Thanks to everyone for their hard work on this project; your tenacity, hard work and strategic vision has paid off,” said Col. Terry V. Williams, commanding officer, MCLB Albany. “Presidential and Congressional mandates require that we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, increase our use of alternative energy sources and reduce our energy consumption.  This project will dramatically reduce our intensity and increase our use of renewable energy.  Once approved and operating, this project will bring us to 22 percent renewable energy of our total utilities use.  The Congressional mandate is about seven percent.” said Col. Terry V. Williams, commanding officer, MCLB Albany.

Williams added that as they look across the region and the Marine Corps as a whole, they will be able to see a reduction in energy usage and also meet the requirements for the base.  It also helps the base with energy security and reliability. 

“Part of this process is that we will burn our own energy to create electricity.  A generator will run parallel with our utilities to help us reduce costs and it can also run on its own, which will allow the maintenance center to continue operating in the event of a power outage.  This will allow them to continue functioning so they can get those required pieces of gear and equipment back out to the warfighter in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Williams explained.

“We have been working on this project off and on since 2003 when we retrofitted our passive gas system to an active gas system,” said Mike McCoy, assistant county administrator, Dougherty County. “Landfill gas is naturally occurring gas that results from the decomposition of garbage and is a reliable and renewable energy source that mainly goes untapped.  However, in 2006, the timing was perfect especially since the base began looking at ways to reduce their energy usage.  We were also looking at other options for our landfill gas, and decided that this project was the most feasible and environmentally sound.”

According to McCoy, the county’s responsibility is to collect the gas and the base will be responsible for processing the gas, which is 50 percent methane, 49 percent carbon dioxide and one percent other trace gases.  MCLB Albany will invest in a processing system and run the pipeline that will deliver the processed gas across Fleming Road to the MCLB energy station, which will burn the gas.

“Because this is a take or pay agreement, the county is responsible for providing a baseline quantity of  153,640 million British Thermal Units per year,” McCoy explained. “Any quantity in excess of the baseline is paid for by MCLB.”

With the approval of the agreement, we will immediately start with the first phase in 2010, which will require an initial investment of $1.3 million to install more equipment, ground wells to extract more gas,  more system engineering and pipes at the landfill,” said Richard Crowdis, administrator, Dougherty County.  “In 2019, there will be another cost of $1.1 million in order to add more wells because the lifespan of our landfill is estimated at 43 years.  Our projected annual operating expenses will be about $21,207 over the life of the project term, which is 20 years, with one five-year renewal.  However, the projected revenue to the county is $187,000 annually, which is a seven percent rate of return on a capital cost of $3 million, which will be borrowed from our reserves.”

Williams added that the partnership between the base and the community to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases is a win-win for everyone. “From a Marine Corps perspective, this is the only and most complex project on renewable energy that we have this year.  This is big for us and we appreciate your support,” he said.

According to official documents, this project will allow MCLB Albany to utilize landfill gas to produce electricity on site which will offset the purchase of electricity as well as natural gas for steam production.  The implementation of this project will bring the base’s total renewable energy use to 22 percent overall, which not only meets, but exceeds congressionally mandated goals.

“Since this is a green project where we are reducing the amount of greenhouse gases, there will be an opportunity to receive additional revenue based on environmental credits, McCoy said. “The base will also have an opportunity to realize some environmental attributes, such as renewable energy credits because they are converting landfill gas into electricity as opposed to using fossil fuels.”

McCoy further explained that this is an environmentally sound project which has multiple environmental benefits such as removing emission equivalent to about 16,000 vehicles, planting 23,000 acres of forest, offsetting the use of about 405 railcars of coal, and averting electricity usage of about 150,000 light bulbs.  The base’s generator will generate enough gas to power about 1,200 homes.

After what Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard called “six motions in six seconds,” the unanimous vote passed and the deal was signed amid thunderous claps and cheers for what has been termed an innovative and exciting project by those in attendance and project team members.

Commissioner John Hayes said, “For as long as I have been on this commission, I have tried to look for out-of-the-box ideas such as this project in order to create additional revenue streams for the county so that we can ultimately and eventually lighten the load to our citizens through lowering taxes and reducing the millage rate.  Hopefully, in the long term, we can begin to do some of this because the landfill is the only independent revenue-generating enterprise we have in the county that is self-sufficient.  This is really exciting.”

Sinyard echoed the sentiments of his fellow commissioners by saying, “This partnership is one of the most strategic we have had with MCLB and I hope it will help make the base more healthy and competitive.  It will also allow us as a county to grow our mission and accomplish that mission in a better way.”

According to officials with both the base and the county, one of the greatest benefits is the joint partnership between the county and the federal government in order to utilize a commodity that will help reduce the use of fossil fuels and magnify the community support that the base currently has.

Frederick R. Broome, director, Installation and Environment Division, MCLB Albany, Ga., said, “This is a huge day for our local community and our base.  Our two agencies were finally able to enter into an agreement for the base to purchase the county’s landfill gas to generate ‘green’ electricity and process steam and hot water.     Additionally, MCLB Albany has contracted with Chevron Energy Solutions to construct and maintain the pipeline, generator and associated equipment to produce energy from this renewable source.  This 20-plus year partnership is an extremely exciting one that we believe will have a major benefit to Dougherty County and the Marine Corps for many years to come.”


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