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Dane County’s Landfill Biogas Facility Recognized by World’s Largest Scientific Society for Ability to Address Climate Change

September 16, 2019
Ariana Vruwink (608) 267-8823
County Executive

The Facility—the First of Its Kind in the Nation—Benefits Local Economies, Advances County’s Clean Lakes and Air Efforts

Today, County Executive Joe Parisi announced that Dane County’s landfill biogas facility has been recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for its ability to turn garbage and cow manure into renewable fuel and inject it into the interstate transmission pipeline so it can be bought and sold to power fleets of renewable natural gas (RNG) vehicles locally and across the United States. The recognition is part of AAAS’s national “How We Respond” initiative to share the diverse ways communities across the United States are using science to respond to climate change. By calling attention to a range of responses, AAAS hopes to spread the word about initiatives others may see as opportunities for their communities.

“We are proud that an internationally-respected organization like AAAS has selected our landfill-garbage-to-renewable-vehicle-fuel facility to be in their initiative,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Dane County is leading the way in combating climate change in Wisconsin. We look forward to working with communities to implement similar climate emission reduction projects, and having people across the country think about the art of the possible in their own community.”

AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and a leading publisher of cutting-edge research through its “Science” family of journals. The organization’s new “How We Respond” initiative includes an interactive website with stories demonstrating how communities across the United States are responding to climate change. A video of Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and John Welch, the Dane County Department Director of Waste and Renewables, highlighting the importance of the landfill biogas facility and how it came to be can be found here. AAAS also wrote a profile story on the facility. The organization’s full report about the national initiative can be found here.

“Responses to climate change by Dane County – including harvesting methane from landfills and cow manure and using that to power their vehicle fleet and generate electricity – demonstrate how communities can respond to climate change while also addressing local issues,” said Emily Therese Cloyd, Director of the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology at AAAS. “We hope that this story and others in ‘How We Respond’ give other communities ideas for how they can respond to climate change and ways that scientists and community members can work together to build stronger, more resilient communities.”

Dane County’s landfill biogas facility will displace 3,000,000 gallons of fossil fuels in its first year of operation, with this number growing to 4,000,000 gallons per year in future years. Due to RNG having a lower carbon footprint, this is equivalent to taking 4,800 cars off the road. It is a CO2 emission reduction equal to over 24,000,000 pounds of coal burned. In addition to the facility’s environmental benefits, it is estimated that Dane County will generate enough revenue from the facility to payback its $28 million cost of the project in just a few years.

Dane County’s landfill biogas facility has an offloading station to allow other biogas producers, like manure digesters, to inject their gas into the pipeline. This facility is the first in the nation to be able to receive biogas from multiple off-site locations and connect that renewable gas with RNG gas stations locally and across the nation. Before being hauled to the landfill for injection into the interstate pipeline, the gas will need to be purified and compressed by the owner’s equipment.

Digesters reduce greenhouse gas emissions by collecting methane that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere. They also help farms manage manure more responsibly, which reduces harmful runoff to lakes and streams. Due to the increased revenue opportunities for local digesters, this offloading station is expected to create an economic incentive for owners of “Cow Power” facilities in the area to convert their operations to vehicle fuel production, which will spur the development of more digesters in our area, and significantly increase Dane County’s lakes clean-up efforts.