Rhode Island reaches deal doubling methane power at landfill

RHODE ISLAND - A New Jersey firm has reached an agreement with Rhode Island authorities to double methane-fueled electricity production at the state's central landfill in Johnston, company officials said.

Ridgewood Renewable Power LLC currently operates a power facility capable of producing about 20.5 megawatts of electricity — enough to power roughly 15,000 homes — by burning the methane gas created by decomposing trash.

Ridgewood managing director Stephen Galowitz said the firm will invest roughly $80 million to renovate and expand its power plants so it can produce nearly 48 megawatts of electricity by 2010. Two of its three existing plants will be demolished or relocated so the landfill can expand.

The firm's current engines use methane gas power to propel pistons that ultimately generate electricity. Galowitz said his company wants to install new combustion turbines that create electricity by using the gas to spin a turbine blade. The system also will use the exhaust heat from the turbine to create additional electrical power.

"It's a more efficient technology," Galowitz said.

Ridgewood reached its agreement with the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp., which runs the state landfill, about two weeks ago. As part of the deal, Ridgewood will pay for the system that collects methane gas, a task that currently costs the landfill agency about $5 million annually.

The company must obtain air permits from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.


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