MADISON, N.C. -- The methane gas at the Rockingham County Landfill is turning into six figures' worth of cold, hard cash for the county.
The county makes about $100,000 a year on carbon credits sold by burning the methane coming out of the landfill.
"Who would have thought we would be looking at turning trash into cash in Rockingham County? I certainly didn't," said Mark Wells, executive director of the methane project.
The money will go toward a trash trust fund for small, local businesses. The fund will be used as start up money, which the county hopes businesses will use to move into vacant stores and put people back to work.
"The formation of this nation was built on entrepreneurs, and as we look for the rebirth of Rockingham County, I feel confident it will be based on the birth of the entrepreneurial fervor that gathers here," Wells said."
The county--and business owners--could see even more money by converting the gas into electricity.
Right now, there's enough methane gas coming out of the landfill to power 700 homes. The county could generate another $250,000 a year by turning the gas into electricity. A specialized generator that runs on methane will be built on the site.
The Rockingham County Business and Technology Center is working on the application and the distribution process. Future plans call for tripling the rate of electricity production and looking at other environmentally-friendly projects.
"Is this a facility we can put solar panels on, could we plant energy crops on the land, whether it's canola or switchgrass or something like that," Wells said.
The county is using $1.4 million in grant money to pull the methane gas out of the landfill.