About the Project
The Flathead County Landfill Gas-to-Energy Project is located about 25 miles southwest of Glacier National Park, and is the first landfill gas-to-energy project in Montana. The gas collected is used for power generation by The Flathead Electric Cooperative (FEC), a locally owned and operated utility that serves the Flathead Valley and Libby areas. Funding from carbon offsets for this project make this power generation a viable investment since electricity from the project costs materially more than electricity from non-renewable sources in the Flathead region.
The Flathead County Landfill is publicly owned by Flathead County, and revenue from carbon credits sales from the project are shared between the county and the Flathead Electric Cooperative. Opened in 1971, the landfill is expected to operate until at least 2035, and currently accepts approximately 120,000 tons of waste per year.
The landfill site consists of 270 acres, with 150 acres permitted to accept waste and 48 acres actively accepting waste. The original unlined landfill section is undergoing closure, with a newer lined section continuing to accept waste for several years to come.
The original unlined section of landfill was responsible for groundwater contamination, which led to the installation of a gas collection and flaring system in 2001. This system has been effective in treating the contamination, and is being integrated into the new energy project. Additional wells are being installed into the unlined landfill, and new wells are being placed in the lined portion as well. Methane destruction from the older flaring project will be subtracted from the project baseline, and will not be eligible for carbon credits.
In the community
This project is expected to provide 1.6 megawatts of power to the community in six years time.Before the project came online, all methane collected was flared without any beneficial use. With the project, the extent of the active gas management system is being expanded, and the gas collected is being used to provide renewable energy in a region that is powered primarily by coal.
The landfill project not only minimizes greenhouse gas emissions, it also provides odor prevention for the surrounding areas, improvement in air quality such as reductions in volatile organic carbon emissions, additional assurance of improving groundwater quality.
The local community benefits from construction and ongoing operations and maintenance jobs associated with the project.
Flathead County showed environmental stewardship by going beyond their obligations to work with the Flathead Electric Cooperative in developing a renewable energy project and expanding gas collection at the landfill.