In the final installment of our energy series, The Switch, we’ll talk about generating energy from waste. Biogas, otherwise known as methane, comes from three major waste sources: cow manure, landfills and waste water (which is a nicer way to refer to sewage). Each of these kinds of organic waste produces methane as it decomposes. Through the use of a digester, it’s possible to capture this gas and use it to generate heat and electricity. Landfills and dairy farms in Oregon have started using digesters to generate their own power and, in some cases, additional energy to sell back to the electrical grid.
Methane is also a greenhouse gas. So capturing it as a power source has the added benefit of keeping it from further polluting the atmosphere. Federal and state tax incentives mean more and more businesses and municipalities will be likely to consider biogas as an energy source in the next few years.
Do you work on a dairy farm, at a landfill or a water treatment facility? Do you currently use biogas as a power source? Are you considering it? What do you see as the advantages and drawbacks?
- Dan Hurley: Senior engineer associate for Lane County Public Works Waste Management Division
- Mark Kendall: Senior policy analyst for renewable resources in the Oregon Department of Energy
- Bill Eddie: Director of origination and procurement at Bonneville Environmental Foundation