I am responding to the op-ed piece written by Rodney Roger, county legislator, District 5, which appeared in The Post-Journal on Dec. 2.
I believe it was incorrect on several levels. Mr. Rogers, as a legislator, should be able to better demonstrate an understanding of an energy project that continues to enhance our county.
The county landfill methane-to-electric project is an energy initiative that should be acknowledged for what it is - an outstanding green energy project. It has also returned a significant amount of new revenue to our county.
Methane CH4 is a very toxic gas and is 25 times more so than carbon dioxide (CO2). The methane at the county landfill is created by decaying bio-mass, and before this project the methane was either seeping into our atmosphere or being burned off as a flare gas.
There had been years of discussion by our County Legislature about building an electric generating plant at the landfill to use the available methane. Seven years ago, then-newly elected County Executive Greg Edwards assembled a team to finally get it done. All involved at the time made a business-based decision to make sure the county was environmentally responsible while being energy productive with the project.
The result is a "showcase" waste-to-energy facility. I also believe that this project is unique in that our county did this project as the owner. In other counties developers built and owned the generation facilities, paying royalties on the generation.
Chautauqua County owns a state of the art, green energy, money-making project because of forward thinking by a leader who took action.
Mr. Rogers thinks that getting $700,000 to $800,000 per year as a return is bad because the original forecast was $2 million per year. Remember the worst recession since the Great Depression started about the time the facility was completed. This down economy lessoned the demand for electric, causing the price of electric sold on the grid to go into a freefall.
At the same time the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) had their prices drop severely for the same reason. RECs are not a government subsidy as suggested by Mr. Rogers; they are certificates sold by the generators of green energy to entities that wish to offset their "carbon footprints." On top of that major price drop, the huge Marcellus Shale natural gas discovery continues to drive down the cost of electric generation. Large generating facilities using low priced natural gas keep the price of electric sold onto the grid very low.
In spite of these economic realities, our landfill methane-to-electric generating plant is still successful, reducing our property tax burden.
Mr. Rogers also said that the landfill competes with NRG's Dunkirk coal-fired plant. That argument ignores all the "green" reasons listed above that make this project so viable. The difficulties at the NRG coal-fired plant are both economic and environmental. They cannot generate electric at a low enough cost, using coal as their fuel, to compete with large natural gas fired electric plants.
At the time the landfill facility was constructed, nobody realized the future impact of low-priced gas from Marcellus Shale on coal-fired electric generation.
Douglas V. Champ is chairman of the Chautauqua County Energy Conference and Expo.