The Coffin Butte Landfill Gas Generation Project is a landfill gas-to-energy generating facility. Located north of Corvallis, Oregon and adjacent to the Valley Landfill, Inc. began operations in 1995 as a way for electric utility cooperative owners to offer a renewable power subscription to their customers. It is owned and operated by PNGC Power.
Landfill gas is harvested and used to power generators (three 16-cylinder and two 20-cylinder Caterpillar engines) that produce enough electricity to serve an estimated 4,000 average-size homes.
The 9,000 square-foot plant has a total generating capacity of 5.66 megawatts of power – enough to provide 4,000 average-sized homes with electricity. Every kilowatt-hour of energy generated means one less kilowatt-hour potentially generated by fossil-fueled power plants.
The Valley Landfills, Inc. is a regional landfill that takes in garbage from 12 western Oregon counties. In 1995, 175,000 tons of waste per year came in; it is now up to approximately 550,000 tons per year. Expanding population in the region ensures a growing influx of garbage, providing a steady source of landfill gas.
It has been positive. Residents appreciate the fact that generating power from methane gas helps reduce odor -- and provides electric utility customers an option to purchase and support renewable, or green, power. The project also creates jobs and revenue for the community.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires all landfills to collect the gas produced by decomposing refuse in order to reduce pollution. Coffin Butte has the option to collect the gas and flare it, but using landfill gas to produce electricity offsets the use of fossil fuels – such as coal – and helps reduce local air pollution. Because Coffin Butte produces power from biomass materials, it is a clean renewable resource.
This type of operation must be reliable and cost-efficient to succeed and technology helps accomplish this. Coffin Butte uses customized software that allows plant operators to diagnose and troubleshoot engine problems before they cause a shutdown. The Sensor Manager software allows diagnosis of problems that have occurred or are about to occur.