At a ribbon-cutting ceremony today, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman officially opened the federal government's first facility using methane gas, from a nearby landfill, to meet energy needs.
The project, at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md. is an innovative partnership among NASA, EPA, Maryland's Prince George's County, and Dallas-based Toro Energy, Inc. This project uses captured methane gas from a nearby landfill to heat the 31 buildings that dot the Center's 1,270-acre campus.
"Understanding and protecting our home planet is one of NASA's key missions," said Administrator O'Keefe. "NASA monitors and studies our planet from our unique vantage point in space, and our Earth Sciences Enterprise also looks for ways to improve the quality of life on Earth. This project directly benefits the Earth by removing a significant amount of methane, a greenhouse gas, from the environment. We use this energy, virtually pollution- free, for power. Hopefully, projects like these will demonstrate the clean, efficient, cost effective use of renewable sources of energy," Administrator O'Keefe concluded.
"It is very encouraging that a large federal institution like NASA is using a local landfill as a source of renewable energy," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "This project at Goddard Space Flight Center demonstrates how the federal government can lead the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and utilizing alternative energy sources. These efforts should be applauded."
Using the methane process at GSFC eliminates the equivalent of the pollution generated annually by thousands of automobiles. In addition to the environmental benefits, NASA will save more than $3.5 million over the next decade in energy costs. It also puts NASA in the forefront of meeting a Presidential Executive Order, which encourages agencies to increase the use of biomass as a fuel source, which in turn reduces dependency on foreign oil.
The effort began two years ago, when Toro contacted GSFC with a proposal to reduce energy use without increasing operating expenses in an environmentally sound manner. Toro was selected to deliver landfill gas, produced at the Prince George's County, Sandy Hill Landfill, Bowie, Md.
Toro modified two boilers in the GSFC central heating plant, constructed a five-mile long pipeline to transport the gas, and built a gas-treatment facility at Sandy Hill. The landfill gas provides 100 percent of GSFC heating needs 95 percent of the time.