Real-time energy stats. With owls.

Written by erin


The GLRA project captures landfill methane, the fourth-largest source of US anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (see this handy EPA fact sheet; all fossil fuel combustion is lumped into one source category). The project prevents methane from escaping the landfill by sucking it into pipes and pumping it into electricity generators which destroy the methane and finally send power to the grid. Many of our projects look like this.

The facility’s Renewable Energy Education Facility, an integral part of the GLRA project since its inception, has just gone global. At the project’s outset, a sound-insulated building with viewing windows overlooking the generators was included to facilitate classroom visits. Also, thanks to the generosity of its energy partner PPL, the energy installation includes a demonstration-sized solar panel and a small wind turbine. The classroom was outfitted with a real-time display which showed the energy generated by each power source. (I’ve seen displays similar to this at science museums… not at other landfills.) Almost two thousand people have toured the facility so far this year.

Now, the real-time energy display is available to everyone via the GLRA’s website, courtesy of the software system deployed by PPL. Currently it shows the real-time output of each energy source as well as the cumulative total. When fully deployed, the system will also show daily trends (the trend graph now visible is static). Like all websites with real-time feeds, this one has its own peculiar fascination – I just hit “reload” and discovered that the wind started blowing and the turbine is generating power!

The REEF is just one of the GLRA’s visible commitments to environmental protection and education. Also highlighted on their website just now is one of several ongoing avian study projects at the landfill, this one involving barn owls (see video slide show replete with fascinated kids, adults, and cute barn owls) See also their historic walking trail and their “Natural Aquatic Life Treatment System” – aka wetlands leachate treatment system.

I love this project. I’ve been there several times and always look forward to my visits. Also, here’s a special insider tip: though we don’t typically sell project-specific offsets, we do sell them for the GLRA thanks to our relationship with the Environmental Defense Fund’s CarbonOffsetList. If you’d like to help fund the GLRA’s efforts, you can purchase offsets from that project specifically, here.

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  1. Trent

    Its good to see some updates on the projects you are doing. We need to see more of these. What happens to the landfill leachate if it has heavy metals in it? Is it just dumped back into the environment?

  2. Adam Stein

    Goodness no! Landfills are heavily, heavily regulated. The groundwater around them is tested constantly, and if any excess contaminants are found, remediation measures must be taken.
    As for leachate treatment, different landfills do different things. Some of them recirculate the leachate, which means they add it back to the landfill. A landfill that I visited this past week treats the leachate to remove metals, and then sends it to a local wastewater plant. One landfill I visited used a series of pools — sort of an artificial wetland — to clean their leachate. So there are lots of strategies for this sort of thing.

  3. Sandra Cruze

    Hi, some of these are great you need a face book link, I would post your stuff like crazy….

  4. sandra cruze

    never mind my last post I just found the link

  5. Anonymous

    Do the plants just filter out the metals or do they convert the metals to something nontoxic? If they only filter water then the plants should be disposed of when they die right?