WINCHESTER, Ky., March 19, 2003 — East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC) has been granted final approval to proceed with construction of Kentucky’s first plants to produce electric power from decaying municipal trash.
By the fall of 2003, three such plants are scheduled to begin producing a total of around 10 megawatts of power by tapping methane that is emitted at three landfills. That is enough electric to power supply the homes of almost two cities the size of Shelbyville, and will make EKPC one of the leaders in green power among electric utilities in the Southeastern United States. Each of the $4 million plants will be around 5,000 square feet.
The Kentucky Public Service Commission granted its approval after a review of information supplied by Winchester-based EKPC, and the Kentucky Division of Air issued air permits for the three projects. The plants will be built at the Bavarian Landfill in Boone County, the Laurel Ridge Landfill in Laurel County and the Green Valley Landfill in Greenup County.
At most landfills in Kentucky, gas emitted by decaying trash is emitted directly into the atmosphere, but the new plants will tap this renewable resource to make a useful product.
“We’re extremely pleased that regulators have agreed with our position that these projects make good business sense and they are good for the environment,” said EKPC CEO Roy Palk. “We will be taking a naturally occurring waste product and making affordable electric power.”
The first plant to be constructed will be at the Bavarian Landfill in Walton, Ky. with an anticipated completion date of late summer 2003. A second plant will be built at the Green Valley Landfill with a scheduled completion date by the end of September 2003. A third plant is scheduled for the Laurel Ridge Landfill near London, which also should be completed by the end of September.
Green Valley and Bavarian are designed to produce up to 3.2 megawatts of electricity, while Laurel Ridge will produce 4 MW.
“Landfill gas is a clean and renewable source of energy,” said Palk. “Providing this to our member distribution cooperatives fits with our commitment to be environmentally responsible. The customers of our member cooperatives have asked for this, and it’s the right thing to do.”
At least four electric cooperatives will sell the output from the plants to retail customers through a program called EnviroWatts. Owen Electric Cooperative, which supplies electricity to nine Northern Kentucky counties, was the first Kentucky co-op to offer green power to customers.
EnviroWatts began after Owen Electric received inquiries from Toyota Motor Manufacturing about supplying green power to its North American headquarters, located in Erlanger. Toyota is purchasing enough renewable power from Owen Electric to supply a significant portion of the energy for its laboratory on the headquarters campus.
Through EnviroWatts, customers pay only $2.75 more per month for each 100 kilowatt block of green power. The customer has the option to enroll for all or just a portion of their electric bill.
“Buying just one block of EnviroWatts has the same environmental value as taking a family car off the road three months,” said Bob Marshall, president and CEO of Owen Electric Cooperative. “It’s not too often that people have the power to make a difference when it comes to energy and the environment, but customers can help through EnviroWatts. For most homes, it only costs a few extra dollars each month.”
In June 2002, Danville-based Inter-County Energy started offering EnviroWatts. Blue Grass Energy Cooperative of Nicholasville followed in July 2002 and Clark Energy in Winchester joined in August 2002. Other electric co-ops will likely adopt the program.
To get EnviroWatts off the ground, EKPC has purchased renewable energy from other sources until it could obtain approvals to build its own landfill gas plants. So far, 100 Owen Electric residential customers have signed up for the program. Customers are buying up to 10 blocks of EnviroWatts.
Of the 6,000 landfills across the U.S., there are about 340 with landfill gas-to-electric projects currently in operation. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates as many as 500 additional landfills could cost effectively tap methane as an energy source, producing enough electricity to power one million homes across the country.
EKPC is a not-for-profit organization that provides wholesale energy to 16 distribution cooperatives that serve more than 456,000 Kentucky homes, farms, businesses and industries across 89 counties. Together, EKPC and the member cooperatives are known as Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives.