VW eyes recycled methane

Volkswagen and the city are trying to hammer out an innovative green plan in which the automaker would use methane gas from the Summit landfill to produce electricity for its plant.

"This is unique," said Jerry Stewart, director of waste resources for the city.

The methane, naturally occurring at the closed landfill, would be mined, fed to generators at the Summit site, turned into electricity and transmitted to the plant, Stewart said.

Danna Bailey, EPB's vice president of corporate communications, said VW has asked about a transmission line from the landfill to the plant.

"We're wide open to it," she said, adding the talks are in early stages.

The landfill is a few miles from the Enterprise South industrial park factory.

For VW, the initiative will not only permit it to use a renewable energy to help power a portion of the assembly plant, but it also will earn the car maker points toward Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status.

The site would be the South's first auto assembly plant and only the second nationally to gain the LEED badge, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

"LEED is green, and green is part of our image," said Dieter Schleifer, manager of plant infrastructure for VW's Chattanooga operations.

Steve Leach, the city's public works administrator, said the project would put to good use take a resource nobody wants. Currently, the methane gas is flared off, Leach said.

"I hope it all works out," he said.

Stewart said the expectation is that 1 to 2 megawatts could be produced daily. That's enough to power an estimated 150 to 200 houses for an hour.

Stewart said he's hopeful a deal can be structured and the project started by the end of the year. VW is to start making cars early next year. Stewart said VW and the city are working out details.

He said the city had a deal with another party to produce electricity from the gas and put it back onto the grid, but that didn't work out.

The landfill was closed in March 1999. The city has a 30-year obligation to keep it up, Stewart said.