COLLIER COUNTY, FL –
The doors are open at Collier County's gas to energy plant. Inside, generators are making money by turning the methane gas from trash at the landfill into electricity.
“We receive revenue based on the gas that's consumed in the engines,” Solid Waste Management Director Dan Rodriguez said.
The plant is a public-private partnership between the county and Waste Management. They've struck a deal that brings in cash for Collier.
“We've received our first payment of $30,000,” Rodriguez said.
Waste Management sells the electricity to Florida Power & Light, then turns around and pays the county for the methane gas. Garbage will bring in almost half a million dollars every year, offsetting costs for consumers.
“By infusing an additional $480,000 into the program, we hope to drive down the cost and keep the disposal rates as low as possible,” Rodriguez said.
We asked Rodriguez if customers could see a decrease on their tax bill for garbage collection.
“Potentially. It just depends on how much waste we bury,” he said. “The best way to reduce your tax bill is to recycle more, because if it doesn't come to the landfill we don't need to bury it.”
The plant has been online since the beginning of May. Since then, it has produced more than 3.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity. Transformers outside the facility take the electricity produced inside the plant and put it on the grid.
“As the price of electricity increases, the county will potentially see more revenue and value for its gas,” Rodriguez said.
Waste Management covered the cost of building the facility, $8.5 million. The company operates 119 landfill gas to energy facilities across the country. The Collier facility is the first in Southwest Florida.
There is enough gas to keep the plant going, and money coming into the county, for at least 20 years. After that, Waste Management will return the site to its original state.
“As part of our contract with Waste Management, it's their responsibility to remove the structure, engines, things like that and return it back to its natural state,” Rodriguez said.
The money generated goes into the Solid Waste fund.