Methane is a naturally formed fuel, and if left untended, an explosive substance or a dangerous greenhouse gas.
Methane, or CH4, is a substance that comes free of charge in anything ranging from cow farts to landfills and compost piles. In days not that far ago, landfills and dumps used to burn off methane to prevent the hazard of explosions if too much of the gas gathered near an open flame.
In a number of today’s contemporary landfills, the methane that is formed from anaerobic (without air) decomposition, elaborate piping systems are laid where organic trash decomposes to feed engines which in turn can generate electricity.
At the Denver Arapahoe Disposal Site (DADS) in Denver, a series of enormous V-16 engines run on the methane gas that’s been collected. In turn, these engines power a turbine that generates enough electricity to power a few thousand homes.
Waste Management runs DADS in a long-term agreement with the city of Denver. The electricity that has been generated is sent to Xcel Energy, which in turn sends electricity to homes.
Because Denver is a very arid steppe climate, the anaerobic process that creates the methane is not as productive as landfills that exist in moister climates.
A good number of landfills still don’t collect the methane as an alternative fuel that can be put to good use; they simply burn it off. While this is good news from both safety and climate perspectives, it will be even better news when the methane is gathered as a renewable fuel to meet a variety of energy demands.
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