Three Iowa electric co-ops are getting some of their electricity from out-of-state garbage and will someday be able to tap their own waste for fuel. Roger Arthur of the Alamakee-Clayton Electric Co-op says they’re part of an organization called the Dairyland Power Cooperative which is recovering methane gas from a Wisconsin landfill to make electricity. He says, “As the methane is produced by the little bugs that’re doing their action in there, the methane is captured and fed into three generators.” He says those generators produce three-plus megawatts of power. The Heartland Co-op in Osage, and the Tri-County Co-op in Hawkeye are also member owners of Dairyland. Arthur says the Wisconsin site is the first of several planned — including one in Iowa. He says they have four other sites they’re working on — including one in northern Iowa. He says the sites will each produce around three megawatts of electricity and be expandable. He says the northeast Iowa site is near Lake Mills. Arthur says they’ve developed a process for recovering the methane for power that is in comparable in cost to producing energy from a new coal-fired power plant. But, he says the methane plants have several environmental advantages over coal. He says, “It does replace in a reliable, safe fashion, tons and tons of coal that would have to be burned otherwise.” He says it has clean emissions, and burning the methane eliminates the smell the gas gives off. He says methane has a reliability advantage over other “renewable” fuels. He says you’re producing energy with renewable resources that is going to be running 90 to 95-percent of the time as compared to others that run 20 to 30 percent of the time range. As an example, he says while the wind may quit blowing for wind power, but the methane is still there. Arthur says the exact timetable for the Iowa landfill methane site isn’t known yet, but he says Dairyland wants to have all the new sites up and running by 2010. Arthur says Dairyland is also working on some converters that use methane from the manure of dairy cows and hogs to make electricity.
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