Natural gas from organic waste is gaining momentum as a renewable energy source, and Pierce Transit is already on board. About 20 miles southeast of Seattle is King County’s last remaining landfill. Cedar Hills is 920 acres of rolling yellow grass growing on top of about five decades of people’s garbage. Little pipes speckle the hillsides, capturing methane as the trash decomposes.
“Until we started processing the gas, all of it was flared at the north flare station. Simply burned off as waste,” said Ron Earnest, plant manager of Bio EnergyWashington. Until now, this renewable natural gas had literally been going up in smoke. Some landfills burn this gas in generators to produce electricity. But Earnest says the return on the pipeline-grade natural gas they make here is five to seven times more profitable.
Nearly all of Pierce Transit’s buses have a distinctive hump on top where natural gas tanks are located. CEO Lynne Griffith says the move to compressed natural gas in 1986 has saved millions of dollars a year and helped reduce the transit agency’s environmental impact. And now Pierce Transit has signed an agreement to run nearly all of its buses on renewable natural gas from the Cedar Hills landfill.
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