MAYVILLE - The county's new methane-to-electric plant is ready for more engines.
The Ellery landfill is producing enough methane to justify adding two new engines to the plant, County Finance Director Darin Schulz told the Audit and Control Committee last month.
A total of four engines are currently converting methane gas from the landfill into electricity. According to Schulz, the county could possibly be making electricity from a fifth engine as early as January.
The news came toward the tail-end of a discussion about the methane plant's expected revenue shortfall this year. With the additional engines, the power plant will be able to process more methane - which the county will then be able put on the grid for sale.
"There will be a proposal coming very shortly to the legislature," Schulz said. "If not for July, but for August to request bonding authorization to expand the plant to 8 megawatts."
Each engine adds 1.6 megawatts to the plant. A fifth engine will make the plant an 8-megwatt plant, while the sixth will take it to a 9.6-megawatt plant.
According to Schulz, the bond resolution will authorize the purchase of two engines - one which could possibly be operational by the start of 2011 and another which will sit idle for a year.
"It makes sense to buy it now," Schulz said of the second engine. "The price and the increase in inflation we expect on the cost of the engines on top of the costs of the fact to bring crews in to install another engine 12 to 18 months later exceed the carrying costs of borrowing for that now."
Schulz went on to explain why the county didn't start out with six engines in the first place.
"If we would have tried to jump at the 8 megawatts before we even started, it would have thrown us off another 6 to 8 months," Schulz said. "We would still be one year away from electricity. It was an unfortunate circumstance, the regulatory delays."
Adding two more engines to the plant will mean more construction work at the Ellery site.
"We are going to have to expand the building and blow out the wall," Schulz said of adding the new engines. "That building was built with that in mind, so it is a very modest expense to do so."
The county expected to make $2 million in revenue from the plant this year. However, with energy prices at a low, Schulz said he expects to see anywhere from a $1.1 to $1.5 million revenue shortfall.
With a fifth engine online in 2011 and hopefully better energy prices, Schulz said the county can expect a "rock-solid profit" of $1 million next year.
The sixth engine will likely be added in 2012, taking the plant to 9.6 megawatts and further increasing its capacity to generate electricity. In addition to increasing the plant's capacity, two more engines will lessen the load and extend the life of the engines currently at the plant.