Contractor will invest $30 million in construction
Wake County is turning yesterday’s trash into tomorrow’s natural gas.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners approved changes to its agreement with Ingenco, the county’s landfill-gas-to-energy contractor, allowing the company to convert its operations at the South Wake Landfill to produce renewable natural gas instead of electricity.
Ingenco will invest about $30 million in a new plant set to come online in 2023. Wake County receives 22% of the revenue from Ingenco’s operations at the landfill, which totaled $900,000 in Fiscal Year 2020-21. The conversion to renewable natural gas could boost that number to $1.5 million or more, based on estimates of future energy prices.
“We’re truly turning a liability into an asset,” Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria said. “We’re keeping a harmful gas out of the environment, and we’re generating revenues that can fund investments to help our landfill better coexist with neighbors in Holly Springs and Apex.”
Landfill gas is about 50% methane and 35% carbon dioxide, with the rest made up of oxygen and other balance gases. If Wake County didn’t collect it, that gas would carry odors from the landfill into the surrounding area and contribute to climate change. (Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that traps heat 28-36 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide.)
Ingenco’s new facility will create renewable natural gas by cleaning up the landfill gas and concentrating it to at least 90% methane. The end product will be chemically identical to natural gas, so it can be pumped into existing pipelines to heat homes and fuel vehicles.
Extending a Partnership
In 2011, Wake County signed a 15-year contract for Ingenco to convert gas from the South Wake Landfill into energy. The company invested $5 million in a facility that generates electricity using upcycled diesel engines that have been converted to burn landfill gas.
The plant came online in 2013 and has added additional engines over the years. Today, it generates about 8.5 Megawatts of continuous power – enough to power at least 8,500 homes at peak demand and about 17,000 homes during off-peak hours.
Ingenco sells its electricity to Duke Energy at a price rate that’s locked in until September 2023. Energy prices have fallen since that deal was signed, and, once it expires, Ingenco expects to receive 60% less for power.
Facing decreased electricity prices, Ingenco asked Wake County to modify its contract to allow for renewable natural gas production. Ingenco plans to have the natural gas plant ready to go live when its contract with Duke Energy expires. In the meantime, Ingenco will continue to generate electricity.
“The future is bright for renewable natural gas, and we’re excited to be getting into this market with Wake County,” said Bob Badeer, executive director of Castleton Commodities International, which provides optimization and management services to Ingenco. “We’ve enjoyed an outstanding partnership with Wake County over the years, and we look forward to working together for many more to come.”
On Monday, the Board of Commissioners approved the wording of Wake County’s contract with Ingenco to allow for renewable natural gas production. The County also extended the contract by 10 years in recognition of Ingenco’s significant new investment. The modified agreement has 16 years remaining.
About Wake County Solid Waste Management
The Wake County Solid Waste Management Division provides waste disposal and recycling services to residents and businesses in Wake County. The division manages 17 waste facilities including a landfill, waste transfer station, residential waste and recycling convenience centers, and household hazardous waste and multi-material recycling drop-off facilities.
To learn more, visit wakegov.com/recycling.