From a distance, it’s completely unassuming.
A few sheds and some exhaust pipes located off to the side of the Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre (aka the Mugga Lane tip). Plenty of Canberrans would drive past it every day.
The humble, long-standing set-up, one of the first of its kind in the country, utilises the methane gas by-product of the waste decomposing at the tip, producing enough energy to power 3,000 homes a year.
ACT No Waste Education team leader Robbie Ladbrook told Canberra Weekly it’s a little known secret that here in Canberra, methane from landfill is being captured to make energy.
“When things get buried, particularly food waste, it’s in an environment where there’s no oxygen so it doesn’t decompose in the way that compost does at home when it’s oxygenated,” Ms Ladbrook explained.
“It rots and makes a couple of yucky things. You get this leachate, a bin juice if you will, which gets funnelled through the bottom and treated at the leachate ponds.
“And as it rots, it makes a smelly gas, which is a methane.”
Ms Ladbrook said the team who manage the landfill have a number of processes in place to ensure the potent greenhouse gas doesn’t escape into the atmosphere.
“It all gets covered in layers to manage that, and the final layers are the clay, the soil, and then the grass, which they grow on it to stabilise it.
“Then they put these little black wells infrastructure inside the landfill, which captures the methane and pumps it down into the landfill gas power station that we have onsite.
“It captures the methane and works like a combustion engine, which you have in your lawnmower,” she said.
The Mugga Way tip’s landfill gas power station works alongside a smaller one at the Belconnen tip; both will continue to produce power for some time.
“It’s just a little quiet achiever I think, and then just across the road we have the new Mugga Lane solar farm, which is a new example of harnessing renewable energy.
“They also have the sheep underneath, which was Australia’s first agri-solar farm,” Ms Ladbrook said.