Every September, WEC and Casella host an open house at Coventry Landfill, welcoming Co-op members and the public to learn about how the landfill operates and how landfill gas is captured to power WEC members’ homes.
A few weeks before the September 16 open house, WEC Board member Betsy Allen toured the landfill and gas-to-electricity plant and took pictures. Here she describes what she learned for Co-op Currents.
By Betsy Allen
On Saturday August 19, Louis Porter joined the Vermont House Energy and Environment Committee, along with two new WEC Board members, Susan Alexander and myself, for an informative tour of the Coventry Landfill and the WEC landfill-gas-to-electricity plant. Louis explained how our plant is a vital renewable resource for WEC members and the environment. Representatives on the Legislative Committee whose constituents include WEC members came to Coventry to tour and learn about the Casella landfill located there, and took the opportunity to learn about WEC’s plant at the same time.
John Casella, owner, and several engineers, explained how the landfill is constructed with primary and secondary layers for every component, how the leachate is processed, how the methane is captured and sent to the WEC electricity generating plant, and the numerous data collection systems to monitor the landfill. If WEC was not utilizing this renewable resource, the gases from the landfill would just be flared and wasted. Although burning methane in a plant to produce electricity releases some carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the plant is a source of renewable electricity and considered a low carbon source of power because the methane would be emitted into the atmosphere if we weren’t using it to generate electricity.
Then we hopped on a school bus to tour the sites. We were able to get out and see how a new section for landfill is being built. The process is engineered with great precision for environmental safety. At the WEC plant, we donned ear protection to walk through the system of the gas piped to the five large generators, then to the substation that sends the electricity, as much as eight megawatts of power, onto the grid. Except for breakdowns or scheduled shut-downs for maintenance, the generators are running 24/7 and supply about 70% of WEC members’ electrical needs.
It is actually exciting to learn and see how this mutually benefitting system between the landfill and WEC works!