At the Trail Road landfill in south Ottawa, one resident’s trash becomes another person’s energy.
2017 marks the 10-year anniversary of the site’s landfill gas-to-energy plant, which generates enough electricity to power 6,000 homes each year.
As waste decomposes it creates methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. At many other waste facilities, this gas is flared – burned off – which releases emissions into the atmosphere. In contrast, methane is collected and converted to clean, renewable energy at Trail Road.
“Why not do something productive with the gas, like generating electricity?” asks Greg Clarke, the Chief Energy Generation Officer at Energy Ottawa.
In the decade since its inception, the Trail Road landfill gas-to-energy facility has successfully converted the equivalent of 1.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into renewable energy. Mr. Clarke explains that the overall impact so far has been the same as 330,000 passenger vehicles off the road or of 1.5 million acres of forest purifying the air over the course of a year.
“It’s a significant amount of reductions,” says Mr. Clarke.
The Trail Road landfill gas-toenergy facility, which sits on City of Ottawa land, was developed and is owned by PowerTrail Inc., an Ontario-based partnership between Energy Ottawa and Integrated Gas Recovery Services (IGRS) a landfill gas utilization company. All three organizations work together to ensure operations run smoothly at the busy site, which is connected to the Fallowfield Distribution Station by 3.2 kilometre of overhead pole lines and 170 metres of underground cable.
“There’s a lot of cooperation back and forth,” says Mr. Clarke.
PowerTrail is responsible for maintaining and operating the landfill gas collection system which ultimately leads to $250,000 in savings for the city each year. Additionally, the partnership pays a royalty fee to the city for the rights to the landfill gas. In the 10 years it’s been operational, this arrangement has earned Ottawa approximately $1.5 million.
At the time the Trail Road plant was established in early 2007, there were few of its kind in Canada. While landfill gas-to-energy facilities are now more common across the country, PowerTrail’s leadership in the field is allowing it to expand its operations.
In 2013, a smaller plant was constructed at a landfill in Moose Creek, about an hour southeast of Ottawa. This facility produces enough electricity to power 4,000 homes each year and prevents some 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere.
Back at Trail Road, a sixth engine was added to the Trail Road facility in 2012 to increase its output, and in turn its environmental impact. According to Mr. Clarke, there are plans to add a seventh in the coming years.