Biogas generated from decaying garbage in a landfill in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey is being turned into electricity that is illuminating city lights and making a significant dent in the methane (CH4) emissions that are contributing to global warming.
Launched in 2001, the Monterrey waste-to-energy project — the first of its kind in Latin America — thus far has prevented some 1 million tons of CO2-equivalent emissions, turning the waste that residents create into light.
Turning Garbage into Light
The Monterrey landfill receives 4,500 tons of garbage daily. Natural degradation of the organic materials included in this waste stream produce methane, a pollutant and greenhouse gas with a Global Warming Potential 72-times that of carbon dioxide.
That’s changed, thanks to deployment of a landfill biogas system carried out by SEISA, which manages the gas collection and treatment, alongside the public landfill operator Sinaproc, and with support from the World Bank.
Some 3.3 million people living in the metro area of Monterrey, the capital of Nueva Leon province, pay among the highest electricity rates in Mexico. By capturing methane emissions from the landfill and using that to generate electricity the city is saving money as well as cleaning up a major source of pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“The motivation was: we’re going to use that biogas. We’re going to produce electricity and use it in Monterrey’s public street lights, and we’re going to have a sustainable, environmentally friendly project,” SEISA general director Jaime Saldana explains in a World Bank Group video.
Besides generating revenue from the sale of electricity, the methane emissions captured are monetized by the sale of carbon credits to the World Bank’s Danish Carbon Fund.
The revenue from the carbon credits is used to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in local schools as well as maintain the landfill’s biogas-to-electricity system, a clean energy and sustainable development multiplier that’s touted as a model for cities throughout Latin America.
I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.