Landfill Gas Fuels Creativity and Economic Development
In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency sets the
requirements for the operation of municipal solid waste landfills. Once a
landfill stops receiving waste and is closed, the operators are required to
monitor and maintain the facility in order to protect the
Most closed landfills become conservation or recreational areas, but many
have been used for shopping malls, office parks, hotels, drive-in theaters,
amphitheaters, and airfields. The North Carolina facility featured here is home
to the world's first landfill gas-fired pottery kilns and glass furnaces.
Located at the foot of the Black Mountains in Burnsville, North Carolina,
the EnergyXchange is a nonprofit organization that operates greenhouses, and clay
and glass studios, all powered by landfill gas. In addition to these work areas,
the facility features a visitors center and a retail craft gallery.
Celebrating its tenth year of operation on Earth Day, 2009, the
EnergyXchange has become a worldwide model for similar operations that seek to find
new uses for closed facilities and/or landfill gas.
When the landfill serving Yancey and Mitchell Counties was closed in 1994,
citizens began discussing and researching how to reuse the land. Since the area
is home to many artists and native plants, it was decided that the closed
landfill would be a great place to set up a business incubator.
After years of research and feasibility studies, plans moved forward to
create studios and greenhouses that would capture landfill gas and use it as a
source of energy. The system was activated on Earth Day in 1999, and two years
later, the facility was finished. The craft studios consist of areas that
support glass blowing and pottery making.
While at the EnergyXchange, artists have the opportunity to create new work,
receive business advice from experts in the field, and sell their glass and
pottery in the gallery showroom. The glass furnaces and kilns are powered by gas
that's created below the surface of the landfill's cap. As the solid waste
decomposes, gas consisting of methane and carbon dioxide is released.
At most landfills, this gas is sent into the atmosphere, but at
EnergyXchange, it's collected and used to blow glass and to bake pottery. Collecting
and using the landfill gas in this way saves the artists money, and it helps to
reduce pollution in the area. In fact, an EPA study showed that the project
would have the same effect as taking more than 20,000 cars off North Carolina
roads each year
Schoolchildren and civic groups often tour the facility, and members of
the general public are welcome to visit the EnergyXchange to see how landfill gas
is used to create beautiful works of art. A gallery or showroom is filled with
pottery and glass that are available for purchase, and artists are often on hand
to greet visitors and to answer questions.
In addition to providing the power to run glass furnaces and pottery kilns,
the landfill gas is used to heat greenhouses. Project Branch Out was created to
grow rare and native ornamentals from seed. This helps the economy of the area,
and using landfill gas in this way lowers emissions, too.
Students who are accepted into the EnergyXchange program learn how to manage
a greenhouse while providing plants such as native rhododendron and azalea
for local nurseries. By spring of 2009, the campus
will include four greenhouses and seven cold frames.
The EnergyXchange facility provides the area with a
renewable source of energy and cleaner air. It also creates more jobs, and the
project helps reduce greenhouse gases. Visit the EnergyXchange
to learn more about how the organization uses landfill gas to provide fuel for
its programs and employment for artists and horticulturists.
Photos were provided by Jim
Murray, Executive Director of the Bartholomew
County Solid Waste Mangement District.