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Mon, May 29, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Kaohsiung landfill is new power source

RECLAIMING LAND The Hsichingpu Landfill, once the bane of residents because of its horrible stench, is now the site of the country's largest methane power plant


The Kaohsiung City government has successfully turned decaying garbage in a closed landfill into a valuable source of alternative energy, with the largest methane power plant (沼氣發電廠) in Taiwan set to begin operations today.

Four generators at the plant built at the municipal Hsichingpu (西青埔) Landfill, once a headache for residents living nearby because of the noxious smell from the area, is expected to turn 5,000 cubic meters of methane gas per hour into electricity. The power generated by the plant is estimated to meet the daily electricity demands of 7,000 families in Kaohsiung.

As a landfill gas, methane is a productive fuel source that can be used to generate electricity rather than being allowed to escape into the atmosphere to contribute to global concentrations of greenhouse gases.

City officials' expectations are high for the plant because the landfill -- containing almost nine million tons of garbage -- should be able to produce fuel the plant for at least 20 years.

"Transforming hazardous landfill gases into useable fuel will create electricity as well as help solve our air pollution problems," said Chang Feng-teng (張豐藤), director of the Environmental Protection Bureau of the Kaohsiung City government. Officials said that the idea for the plant came from studying similar facilities abroad.

The plant was designed by Cleanaway (可寧衛), Australia's largest waste management company and will be operated by the firm under Brambles Australia Ltd.

Cleanaway, under a 20-year contract with the Kaohsiung City government, will build three more generators in a bid to raise its total power capacity to 9500 kilowatts, supplying nearly 14,000 families every day in the future.

Since the landfill began operations in 1977, residents near the dump have complained of the terrible stench from what they claim have been improper methods of dealing with the waste, such as openly burning the refuse.

It was not until 1986 that city environmental officials began to treat the contaminated water that was seaping away from the dump. Prior to that time, the landfill was not properly insulated from the underlying soil and no provisions were made for collecting the methane gas that was escaping.

In the 1990s, the 48-hectare landfill became part of Kaohsiung's legacy of poor public management. The result was that in 1994 and 1995, several violent demonstrations were staged which created tension between local residents and the city government headed by Mayor Wu Tun-yi (吳敦義). At the time, Wu said that the landfill was nearly full and would be impossible to relocate.

Residents demanded that the former head of the environmental bureau, Wu Ming-yang (吳明洋), spend the night at the landfill to experience first hand what people living near the site had to put up with. Wu agreed, and afterwards helped residents to push for the closure of the dump.

When the landfill was finally closed in June 1999, the city government commissioned a study to turn the area in to a park.

In addition, a methane-fueled power plant was one of essential parts of the project.

Environmental official Chang said that the once putrid Hsichingpu Landfill would eventually be transformed into the "lungs of Kaohsiung," providing fresh air and an abundant supply of electricity.

The methane plant in Kaohsiung is the second in Taiwan. The Taipei City government built the first one last November at its Shanchuku Landfill (山豬窟).

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