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Chambersburg council OKs motion to build methane-to-electricity plant at landfill

August 22, 2011|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — For the past decade, Chambersburg officials have been searching for ways to integrate renewable energy sources into its utility portfolio.

On Monday night, they took steps toward that goal.

By a unanimous vote, the Chambersburg Borough Council entered into a 10-year agreement with PPL Renewable Energy to build a methane-to-electricity power generating station at the Blue Ridge Landfill in Greene Township.

The deal, which will begin in 2013 and run through 2022, will provide 6.4-megawatts of power at a fixed price of $63 per hour with no additional delivery or congestion fees because the power will run straight into the borough's substation near the Walker Road exit on Interstate 81.

"This is locally produced sustainable recycled energy improving the environment, providing a benefit to the landfill and all the electric customers in Chambersburg," council president Bill McLaughlin said in a news release. "It's a win-win-win proposition."

Besides the cost of running a power line to the Scotland, Pa., landfill, no capital investment from the borough will be needed for the project, which is expected to be completed by January 2013, in time for Chambersburg's current electricity purchase agreement to expire in December 2012, according to borough manager Jeffrey Stonehill.

Stonehill said the plant will provide approximately 10 to 16 percent of the borough's total electricity needs, which is equivalent to about 3,500 households.

"It's good for everybody," Stonehill said. "It goes out (as garbage) and comes back as electricity."

The plant, which will be owned by PPL, works by using methane gas from waste at the 268-acre landfill to power four Caterpillar engine generators. The power is then run through the borough's line and straight into its power grid.

PPL-RE currently operates similar facilities at the Cumberland County Landfill near Shippensburg, Pa., and at the Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority landfill in Lebanon, Pa.

Since Chambersburg is its own utility provider, it is in a unique situation in that it can pay for the power and have it go straight out to customers rather than to a general area grid, Stonehill said.

"We're going to continue to shop for other slices in the coming months because we have to make all these arrangements soon, but what we know is that for this one piece, it's relatively a double-digit discount from what we're paying now," he said.

According to Stonehill, the only downside for Chambersburg, which is the largest of all 35 Pennsylvania municipalities to own its own utilities, is that they had to enter into such a long agreement with PPL for the facility's energy.

However, 10 years might only be the beginning because PPL might choose to expand the facility to provide more energy, which would interest the borough because of the lower price, Stonehill said.

"They plan the project to last more than 10 years," Stonehill said. "We're only agreeing for the first 10, but we have options for the future."

According to a news release from the borough, the plant will prevent the equivalent of 33,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Development of the right of way and the power line has already begun, according to the release. Construction of the plant will begin once necessary permits have been obtained, the release states.

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