As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – but for Emerald PUD, the “treasure” is found in transforming the resulting landfill gas into electricity. That’s exactly what Emerald’s methane power plant does at the Short Mountain Landfill. Naturally occurring, ozone-damaging landfill gas is transformed into valuable electricity, offering substantial benefits to the environment, the atmosphere, and customer-owners. This month, Emerald celebrates the power plant’s 25th anniversary.

“With only five years as an operating utility under its belt, Emerald was the first utility in the Northwest to generate power from landfill gas. When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing,” said General Manager Scott Coe. “People still look to us today for projects that are new and innovative.”

Landfills are one of the main sources of methane emissions in the United States. Methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, is naturally generated as landfill waste decomposes. Pound for pound, its comparative impact on climate change is about 25 times greater than carbon dioxide.

Emerald is a partner of the Environmental Protection Agency in its Climate Challenge Initiative to combat global warming. The methane power plant is a formidable defense against the damage the Short Mountain landfill would otherwise cause. At the plant, the landfill gas is captured before it reaches the atmosphere and is moved into the combustion process to create electricity. In 2014, more than 368 million cubic feet (CF) of gas was captured and transformed – more than a million CF of methane per day prevented from harming the atmosphere!

“Since the plant has been in operation, we’ve generated enough energy to provide power to 35,000 homes for a year, and eliminated greenhouse gases equivalent to what is produced by a vehicle driving more than 800 million miles – that’s more than four times the distance to and from the sun,” Coe said. “It is an incredible accomplishment.”