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Garbage powers 10,000 homes
Flexible photovoltaic solar sheets are part of the geomembrane cover that caps a portion of the Tessman Road Landfill in San Antonio. The electricity generated by these solar sheets at the site is enough to power 5,500 homes.
SAN ANTONIO -- In an age where “sustainability” and alternative energy sources are often uttered as Americans try to do more with less, Republic Services’ Tessman Road Landfill off I-10 here is at the forefront.
The landfill, which opened in 1981, is home to a gas-to-energy plant operated by Energy Developments. The site’s General Manager Bill Rich said methane is drawn from decomposing garbage. The gas goes through a system of turbines that converts it into electricity, which then is sold to Austin Energy and San Antonio-based CPS Energy.
According to Scale House Supervisor Katherine Engelberg, who served as a tour guide during an April 22 Earth Day event, the landfill generates 8 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power approximately 4,900 homes.
Rich said the landfill also generates electricity from the sun, with the use of a first-of-its-kind solar energy cover. Tessman Road was the first such facility in the nation to incorporate a network of flexible solar -- photovoltaic -- sheets as part of the high-density plastic layer used to cap a 5.6-acre portion of the landfill.
According to Republic’s corporate website, the solar park at Tessman Road generates approximately 9 megawatts of electric power, which is enough to provide electricity to 5,500 homes. The technology since has been used at other landfills across the country, creating a useful means of capping areas of landfills when their capacity is reached.
Also as part of the Earth Day event, the landfill hosted elementary and intermediate school students from two East Central Independent School District campuses, who participated in various activities geared toward encouraging good stewardship of the earth. Included among those activities was planting trees and lessons about recycling.
Engelberg said Republic owns a total of 1,064 acres at the site, of which 844 acres are permitted for the disposal of non-hazardous residential and industrial waste.
The landfill accommodates approximately 630 garbage trucks, carrying an estimated total of 6,000 yards of refuse, she said. Currently, 34 million cubic yards of the landfill’s volume is in use, with another 75 million cubic yards remaining. Based on current projections, it is estimated that the landfill will be able to accommodate another 28 years’ worth of the region’s trash.
Tessman Road Landfill:
By the numbers
•1981: First opened
•1,064: Total acreage, of which 844 is permitted for landfill use
•6,000: Approximate yards (roughly 630 truckloads) of waste dumped there each day
•34 million: Cubic yards totally in use
•75 million: Remaining capacity
•28: Years left before reaching capacity
•10,000: Approximate total of homes able to be powered by both the solar cap and gas-to-energy plant
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