Sarasota landfill gets sustainable energy source

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — The Sarasota County landfill is a relatively quiet place, unless you’re standing in a new building built to house three enormous generators, producing 4.8 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 2,800 homes.

“The power is being fed into the grid in Sarasota County through the FPL transmission system,” says Jason Timmons, a solid waste engineer.

The system was built and paid for by Aria Energy Company and is meant to produce energy to be sold around Florida — in this case, Jacksonville. However, because it gets put on the power grid, the Suncoast will also be getting it as well.

“The power is being used up there, but in reality it’s being used by facilities closer to this plant,” says Timmons.

It is often said, one man’s trash is another mans treasure, or in this case its power. It’s the trash at the landfill that turns methane gas into fuel to power the generators.

In the past the gas produced by the landfill would be burned off, which environmentalists claim is contributing to climate change. Now its being converted into power to run the generators.

“The ultimate solution would be to reduce the waste that’s going into the landfill. That being said, its certainly appropriate to capture some of the gasses that are coming from the landfill and put them to use,” says Glenn Compton with the Manasota 88 club.

On Thursday we got an up close look at the generators, which are so loud we had to wear two layers of ear protection. Staff explained how at 20 tons each, these behemoths are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 236,000 metric tons each year or about 50,000 passenger vehicles.

“This really is a great opportunity for the county as well as for Aria Energy to take a resource that would otherwise be burned away into the atmosphere and use it to actually create something that is usable by the community,” said Timmons.

“Overall it’s a positive benefit for the environment because it will reduce greenhouse gasses and fossil fuel use almost anywhere,” concluded Compton.

The county hopes using these generators to produce electricity will be more sustainable for the future.