GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — The BMW plant in Greer, S.C., is getting more than 60 percent of its energy from the methane gas generated at a nearby landfill, officials said.
The operation — in cooperation with the Texas landfill firm Waste Management — captures the methane gas, which otherwise would escape into the atmosphere, and converts it to energy.
Waste Management, which has gas-to-energy projects in more than 20 states, recently announced that it intends to create about 60 additional renewable energy facilities within five years — including two more in South Carolina.
The two new plants will be located at landfills in Dorchester and Jasper counties, a spokesman said.
The BMW project and Waste Management's gas-to-energy plant in Kershaw County generate nearly 16 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power at least 15,000 homes for a year.
The methane gas from the Spartanburg County landfill travels nine miles by pipeline to the BMW Manufacturing plant, where it fuels turbines that generate electricity for the facility. About 63 percent of the plant's energy comes from the landfill gas project, officials said.
BMW officials have said the methane used as a fuel saves the company at least $1 million a year. It also reduces emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, by about 60,000 tons annually.
''This national initiative is a major step in Waste Management's ongoing efforts to implement sustainable business practices across the company,'' Paul Pabor, vice president of renewable energy, said at an environmental conference in Columbia. ''We're building on the success of our existing local facilities, using the experience we've gathered from over 20 years of developing landfill gas-to-energy projects to carry out the national five-year program.''
Randall Essick, senior business development manager for Waste Management of South Carolina, said the company's efforts would help make the state more energy independent.
Essick said the Waste Management landfill site in Dorchester County will be able to provide methane gas within the next couple of years, while the second site in Jasper County still is several years away from production.
The company is talking with Santee Cooper about providing the utility with landfill gas-generated electricity from its Dorchester County landfill, he said. Electricity from the Elgin landfill already goes to the Santee Cooper power grid.
Projects such as these ''provide us an opportunity to utilize something that was put into the air in the past,'' he said.
Waste Management is the nation's largest landfill operator with 281 landfills.
Landfill gas is produced when microorganisms break down organic material in a landfill. It is composed of between 50 percent to 60 percent methane gas and the remainder is carbon dioxide.
Usually, these gases are burned off. However, the landfill gas plants collect the methane and use it to fuel engines or turbines generating electricity, thereby creating a new revenue stream for the landfill.