2001 Energy — Co-winner 2
Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario
Transforming greenhouse gas into renewable energy
By collecting and utilizing the gas emitted from its municipal landfill site, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo has transformed a potent greenhouse gas into a source of renewable energy. The region's gas collection system produces electricity to fuel a state-of-the-art electrical generating station, while reducing odours and virtually eliminating the release of methane gas from the landfill site. As a result of its partnership with Toromont Energy and Ontario Power Generation, the region has assumed no financial risk in the project. Furthermore, the region benefits economically by supplying gas to the electrical generating station in exchange for a royalty that will likely reach $500,000 per year.
Waterloo operates two active sanitary landfill sites that receive more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. The larger of the two is the Waterloo Landfill, which adds 150,000 tonnes per year to the six million tonnes of waste that already exists at the 72-hectare site. It has approved disposal capacity for the next 30 years.
In 1993, two factors led the region to devise a gas collection system at Waterloo Landfill: complaints by residents about odour coming from the site and concerns that the landfill gas was contributing to global warming. The region developed a two-stage strategy to ensure that the landfill would not discharge these raw gases into the environment.
- Waterloo earned $78,000 in royalties from Toromont between August and December 1999 and $177,000 in 2000. The region expects royalties to rise to close to $500,000 a year within 10 years as gas flows increase due to increased waste and Toromont negotiates higher electricity prices.
- Waterloo recovers approximately 8.5 million cubic metres each of methane and carbon dioxide a year. It also recovers small amounts of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, both smog-producing gases. As the region adds more recovery wells to the landfill site, it expects gas flows to exceed 14 million cubic metres a year within 10 years.
- Approximately 2,000 houses are now powered with electricity from this renewable power source. If a similar power plant were constructed to replace this facility, 8.5 million cubic metres per year of pipeline-quality natural gas would be required to generate the same quantity of electricity.
- The region has addressed a local nuisance by ridding the area of the odour problem caused by landfill gas.
- Over the short term, the project created jobs as local construction workers built the $7 million Toromont facility. The project has also created one full-time plant manager position and occasional positions for engine maintenance workers.
- Involve knowledgeable partners: each of the three partners in this project was an expert in its area.
- Persistence pays off. While the collection and flaring system was in operation by 1995, it took until 1999 to secure all necessary power contracts and to construct the power plant. Toromont had to exert constant pressure on Ontario Power Generation over this period to advance the project. Archibald said Ontario Power Hydro can be reluctant to devote staff time for this small quantity of energy production, but that the process should become easier now that Hydro has a template for future deals.
- Emission credits were an essential component of this contract process: without them, this project would not have proceeded. Waterloo went forward with this project because it recognized the importance of creating a revenue stream now, rather than hoping for a windfall in the future.