Nearly 100 people attended the Pine Tree Acres Landfill, Gas Plant Dedication Program at the Lenox Township Hall last Friday morning and later toured the facility, which just recently opened for business. Government officials, plant personnel, company representatives, utility representatives and others were on hand to share in the celebration along with various media sources that covered the event.
A brief program highlighted the event. Participants first heard from Chuck Cassie, Senior District Manager for Waste Management’s Michigan landfills operations, who acted as Master of Ceremonies for the event. John Myers, Waste Management Director of Operations for Michigan Landfills commented on the progress being made at the company, turning it around from its original business of managing waste to a company now engaged in the production of energy. Mr. Myers commented, “ the entire corporate culture of the company is changing too, with the desire to create a much more skilled workforce, embrace technology to better manage its waste stream and be the best corporate steward of the environment, protecting both natural resources and making the company’s entire operation more sustainable.”
Denise Gretz, Waste Managements’ Area Vice President for Michigan and Ohio , spoke about the history of Pine Tree Acres, which opened up in 1986 as just another landfill. Twenty six years later, the landfill is no longer just managing waste, but extracting a valuable resource (landfill gas) from the waste stream and turning it into electricity which can now power up to 12,000 homes annually from the energy created at this newest Waste Management landfill gas plant . Waste Management has literally reinvented its waste stream to meet the company’s waste management and sustainability goals for the future. In this instance, Waste Management has created an income stream out of waste, while furthering its corporate mission of leaving behind a safe, sustainable environment for local residents in the surrounding communities.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel was on hand to deliver some remarks, commenting that Waste Management has turned what once was considered an “eyesore” of the community into a valuable asset and jobs creator. Mr. Hackel also reflected on other success stories in the county, including his alma mater Macomb Community College, which he characterized as the former “Twelve Mile High” of higher public education. Mr. Hackel remarked about that schools’ turnaround, recently becoming one of the premier two year community colleges in Michigan. Finally, County Executive Hackel bragged about Macomb County being the fastest growing county in the state, the reinvention and transformation of the county from the “arsenal of democracy” to the “arsenal of innovation” and the new county slogan/website helping attract the best and brightest workforce, that being: “www.makemacombyourhome.com.”
Lenox Township has been an advocate of the technological modifications at the Waste Management facility and Ron Trombley, Lenox Township Supervisor, commented on both his townships’ commitment to the environment (first LEED certified township building in Michigan back in 2007) and its ongoing strategic partnership with Waste Management. It takes a collaboration of private and public industry commitment along with government foresight and support to help create “the largest Landfill Gas to Energy site in all the Midwest.” It’s obvious to the casual observer, Lenox Township is passionate about being a good government steward of the environment, including use of biodegradable plates, cutlery and cups (not a plastic water bottle in sight) at the luncheon following the dedication ceremony. Lenox Township is a perfect example that you don’t have to have a large tax base or unlimited resources to be a good public steward of the environment ….. just the will to change, a good solid plan and forward thinking leadership to succeed.
David Ronk, Consumers Energy’s Director of Transactions and Resource Planning closed out the formal dedication program. Mr. Ronk noted Consumers Energy is committed to providing more energy to the public from renewable energy sources and the Pine TreeAcres Landfill Gas Facility, along with some 16 other facilities across the state, are helping the company meet its statutory goal of 10% energy from renewables by 2015. Consumers Energy has a plan to spend $3.2 Billion in order to meet the renewables law which was enacted back in 2008. Furthermore, Mr. Ronk noted Consumers Energy is committed to purchasing more energy from renewables as long as it has reliable sources from which to make such purchases. The facility at Pine Tree Acres will allow Consumers Energy to carry out such goals and is proof positive the renewable energy law enacted back in 2008 is in fact working.
The process of converting waste into energy is described below. Landfill gas, consisting primarily of methane and carbon dioxide, occurs naturally as waste buried in the landfill decomposes. Pine Tree Acres Landfill has installed over 250 gas wells to collect the gas and use it to power engines that generate electricity for Consumers Energy. Up to 4,800 cubic feet of landfill gas per minute is being channeled into eight 20 cylinder Caterpillar engines to produce this renewable source of electricity. This new facility has the capacity to power the equivalent of 12,000 Michigan homes and with the other existing gas facility at Pine Tree Acres generating enough electricity to power 7,500 homes, these two gas-to-energy facilities will combine to generate 21.6 megawatts of electricity, creating enough renewable energy to power almost 19,500 homes every year.
As previously mentioned, Waste Management is a dedicated environmental steward and its Pine Tree Acres facility has an environmental focus beyond gas-to-energy creation. The site operates in compliance with all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) rules and regulations governing the design, construction and operation of a Type II non-hazardous solid waste disposal facility. The landfill is home to more than 100 acres of naturally reconstructed wetlands certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council under its Wildlife at Work program.
The facility also has a strong commitment to its local community, participating in numerous outreach programs and opening up its facility for tours. As a vital environmental educational component and learning facility, schools, government, industry and other interested groups all take advantage of the Pine Tree Acres Facility to learn more about its role in managing area waste streams, gas-to-energy conversion technology and repurposing a business for greater economic returns while helping the environment. Without a doubt, Waste Managements’ commitment to the environment is creating win-win-win results for the company, the local community and the new Pine Tree Acres Landfill Gas to Energy Plant.