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January 2010
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CityLink Seattle

Seattle’s Trash Becoming Its Clean Energy



Seattle’s trash is becoming its treasure.

Seattle City Light announced Thursday that in a three-way partnership, it has contracted for new, renewable energy from a landfill gas power plant at Waste Management’s Columbia Ridge landfill in Oregon where Seattle Public Utilities disposes of the city’s garbage.

Waste Management collects methane from its Columbia Ridge landfill and burns it to power these generators and produce renewable energy.

“With the start of production from the Columbia Ridge plant, we are completing the circle of sustainable practices, maximizing the resources of even our garbage to find new, alternative energy in an environmentally responsible manner,” Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said.

The power plant captures methane gas created by decomposing garbage then uses it to fuel turbines that produce electricity. The plant is designed to produce 5.78 average megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power 5,625 homes. City Light has signed a contract with Waste Management to purchase the plant’s entire output. The plant began generating its first electricity in mid-December.

“Seattle recycles much of its solid waste — 50 percent in 2008 — and recycling is still the City’s first choice,” Councilmember Richard Conlin said. “But garbage continues to go to the landfill; and this project makes the best use of that garbage by producing renewable energy that does not contribute to climate change.”

“This innovative technology allows us to turn Seattle’s waste into clean energy for use right here in Seattle and strengthens Seattle’s position as one of the nation’s top sustainability leaders,” said Dean Kattler, Waste Management’s Vice President for the Pacific Northwest.

Energy from the Columbia Ridge plant adds to Seattle City Light’s portfolio of new renewable energy and helps the utility on its way to meeting the goals of Initiative 937. That voter- approved law requires large Washington utilities to have at least 15 percent of their energy supply accounted for by new renewable energy resources and energy conservation by the year 2020.

“This contract with Waste Management is yet another example of City Light’s continued effort to provide electricity with the cleanest, most efficient methods possible,” City Councilmember Bruce Harrell said. “This will help the growth of our renewable energy portfolio, while adding to clean energy jobs in the region.”

Seattle City Light is the ninth largest public electric utility in the United States.  It has the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents.  City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.