Nixon, Hindman unveil alternative energy plant

The plant will supply electricity to Columbia.
Gov. Jay Nixon inspects an energy facility Monday afternoon in Jefferson City. Nixon cut the ribbon in the ceremonial opening of the new renewable energy project that will convert landfill gas into energy for Columbia.

Gov. Jay Nixon announced the opening of a new alternative energy plant Monday in Jefferson City, which will provide electricity to thousands of Columbia homes and two state prisons using gas naturally produced at a landfill.

In a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, Nixon said the project between energy companies Republic Services, Inc., Ameresco, the city of Columbia and the state would give Missouri a competitive edge in an economy with a growing green jobs sector.

"For the people of Missouri's economic engine to move forward, we need to compete and win in this new economy," Nixon said. "We must encourage and embrace emerging science and technology."

A joint statement from Republic and Ameresco said the gas is about 50 percent methane, which can be easily converted to electricity and will generate about 3.2 megawatts of electricity. That energy will supply power to about 2,000 Columbia homes when Columbia Water and Light purchases the energy, equal to about 2 percent of the utility's total electric portfolio.

This helps to meet Columbia's citywide renewable energy quota two years late. The ordinance, passed by voters in 2004, called for the city to generate 2 percent of its electrical retail sales from renewable energy sources by the end of 2007. The next target in the ordinance calls for the to increase the target to 5 percent by December 2012.

Excess heat from the conversion process will then be used to generate heat for steam and hot water at the Jefferson City Correctional Center and the nearby Algoa Correctional Center.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said the project helped the city from both an environmental and economic standpoint by creating new jobs while helping the city meet the targets in the ordinance.

"These projects promise more energy efficiency, more use of renewable energy," Hindman said. "Clearly they're going to help with regional economic development because I think the future of economic development comes with the green movement in this country."

Michael Schmitz, interim director of Columbia Water and Light, said the utility would be focusing on similar local projects to meet the targets in the city energy ordinance.

"As a small utility, we want to participate in big projects, but not so big that we ignore those goals," Schmitz said.

Ameresco CEO George Sakellaris said the construction of the plant had created 80 local jobs and said his company was working with the state to combine the Algoa and Jefferson City power plants to save the state money in operating costs. He said such projects had more than just monetary benefits for taxpayers.

"Energy efficiency and renewable energy are the most critical issues we have in this country especially if we address global warming, and more important, national security," Sakalaris said. "We have more and more dollars going overseas and I think this is an important investment in the United States."

The Jefferson City Landfill is owned and operated by a Republic Service subsidiary, Allied Waste. Kevin Walbridge, Republic senior vice president of operations for Midwest region, said the company's goal was to find ways to make its landfills more efficient.

"It's nice to see that the methane that's been generated from materials really collected around this community can now be captured and used in some efficient and innovative ways," he said.

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