In an age when the state, local and federal governments are rarely on the same page, Lycoming County has a textbook example to offer on the good that can happen when all those entities combine their best efforts.
It takes two years for organic materials found in garbabe dumps to decompose into methane.
But the Lycoming County Landfill is using that waste byproduct to produce electricity and heat.
County, state and PPL Renewable Energy officials recently opened a new gas-to-energy production facility that is hopefully a trendsetter.
The facility, besides being the height of efficiency, provides most of the electricity to the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex, plus power into the electrical grid and heat to buildings on the landfill grounds.
PPL Renewable Energy, which designed, constructed and owns the 6.2-megawatt plant at the landfill, will purchase methane gas from the county to fuel the plant.
The county then will buy back a portion of the electricity generated and sell it to the prison.
Given that full circle of mutual cooperation, benefit and efficiency, it's no wonder Steve Tucker, Lycoming County landfill director, says, "I'm in awe of this project."
The numbers are worthy of awe. The new facility, fed by 71 methane wells drilled around the landfill to four huge engines, produces enough electricity to power 4,000 homes and eliminates the equivalent of 80,000 barrels of imported oil a year, according to PPL.
The idea for the project came seven years ago.
The project stands as testament to what is possible when vision is combined with brains, efficiency and, most of all, cooperation among different entities. Jobs, energy and environmental friendliness are the result.
Given the energy and budget challenges that face both the public and private sector, we will need more examples like this project in the future.