Glencoe’s Reliable Renewable Energy Source

“Landfill gas generation is an under appreciated renewable resource,” Glencoe Light and Power General Manager David Meyer said during a tour of the Spruce Ridge Methane Gas Plant operated by Waste Management, Inc. “It’s more reliable than any other form of electric generation, and it’s renewable.”

Unlike a waste-to-energy power plant, which burns trash to generate electricity, landfill gas generators capture the methane produced by decaying trash in a landfill and burn that methane to produce electricity.

“Even if the nearby landfill closed tomorrow — which it won’t — the Spruce Ridge Gas Plant would have decades of fuel going forward,” David added. Over the course of the year, Spruce Ridge provides Glencoe with more than 30 percent of its electricity.

The Glencoe landfill has been accepting trash for decades from cities and counties as far as 80 miles away. Before the Spruce Ridge Gas Plant was built a decade ago, landfill methane was flared on site. But once Minnesota officials determined that landfill gas generation would be considered a renewable energy resource, Waste Management built four generating units of 800 kilowatts each at the Glencoe landfill, for a total of 3.2 megawatts of electric generating capacity.

With a capacity factor of about 98 percent, the plant produces electricity nearly all the time. As such, it is a critical baseload resource that also is a renewable resource.

“Spruce Ridge has a higher capacity factor than coal, wind, or solar,” commented David. “Having a baseload resource with greater availability than a coal or gas plant, or wind or solar generation, is a huge benefit to the city and its customers. Generating electricity from methane is environmentally friendly, which makes it an attractive resource.”

Waste Management operates around 100 landfill gas generators around the country.

David praised CMPAS’ efforts to help Glencoe incorporate a local resource. “There was a time when being a full requirements member of a joint action agency was the only option, but that is not the case anymore,” he said. “Now, I firmly believe that being in a partial requirements agency like CMPAS is the best option for Glencoe,” David continued. “It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet — no two people will have the same appetite. You can take what you need and leave what you don’t. With public power utilities having very diverse needs for their power supply, the ability to choose which power contracts would best suit your utility is a great option.

“Our vegetable canning load is pretty significant, and we need that load covered during the three or four months when the canning facilities are operating,” the Glencoe manager said. “But when they’re not running, they’re not using electricity. CMPAS provides me with customized services based on our varying need.