Science & Technology
4:00 pm
Wed July 18, 2012

State Prison Uses Landfill Methane for Power

The state prison in Somerset County is using methane gas from a local landfill to generate the electricity and steam that power the penitentiary.

Though the methane-to-electricity plant has been online since January, officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections dedicated the plant Tuesday in memory of the late DOC Operations Director Robert Calik.

With an estimated cost-savings of $68 million over the next fifteen years, the plant would pay for itself and more.

SCI Laurel Highlands maintenance manager James Kreutzberger said the new methane plant was first conceived of more than six years ago.

"It was just a unique situation where the landfill needed a treatment plant and we needed a new [coal-fired] boiler plant," said Kreutzberger.

From there, the DOC worked with Mostoller Landfill to build a state-of-the-art methane plant. "We've been burning landfill gas for a long time, but when you try to compress it and burn it in high-tech engines, jet engines and that, it gets a little difficult," said Kreutzberger.

Kreutzberger said the plant produces more electricity than the prison needs, so excess power is sold to the local utility for a profit.