New technology helps Dane County power trucks with trash

Monday, April 11, 2011

From a news release issued by County Executive Kathleen Falk:

While prices at the pump continue to climb, Dane County is using new technology to fill-up some of its vehicles for around 20-cents a gallon.

County Executive Kathleen Falk announced today the county is the first place in the state that’s running vehicles on landfill gas.

The county, in partnership with several private companies that specialize in turning trash into bio-gas, have installed technology at the Dane County landfill that turns landfill gas into compressed natural gas (CNG). Over the next several weeks, a number of Dane County parks and public works trucks will be converting over to using this cleaner burning, less expensive bio-fuel.

At Thursday’s event, Falk demonstrated how the new filling station works.

“Filling up has never been this cheap in my lifetime,” Falk said as she noted gas hasn’t been as low as 20 cents a gallon since the 1930s. “Through innovation, we’re saving tax dollars, cleaning up our air and turning an environmental problem into a green energy opportunity,” Falk said.

Falk added the pursuit of these alternative fuels is especially important given continued volatility of prices at the pumps (gas is currently $3.75 at many area filling stations).

A few years ago, the county started converting methane gas given off by decomposing landfill trash into electricity that now earns taxpayers over $4.3-million a year. Turning a percentage of landfill methane into compressed natural gas for county cars and trucks won’t affect the amount of electricity generated.

While the methane gas given off by the landfill is essentially free, it does cost around the equivalent of 20-cents a gallon of gasoline to convert that methane into fuel that can be used by vehicles. This new compressed natural gas gets the same fuel efficiency (miles per gallon) as the regular unleaded gas that people buy at gas stations.

This new landfill gas station makes about 100 gallons of CNG each day and was developed through a partnership between Dane County, Cornerstone Environmental Group LLC, Unison Solutions Inc., Madison College, Alliant Energy, and ANGI Energy Systems, a Milton-based manufacturer and global supplier of natural gas compression equipment.