CHAPEL HILL- UNC’s Carolina North project is one step closer to being completed, now that a generator has been installed at the site to convert landfill methane gas into electricity.

“This is kind of a partnership with Orange County,” says UNC Director of Energy Service Phil Barner. “Methane is a big greenhouse gas, and it has some value, if there’s enough of it, to put in an engine and make electricity. We did a feasibility analysis, and it looked like it had some promise.”

The project will use leftover methane gas from the Orange County landfill, which is set to close on June 30. The undertaking is part of a larger plan to eliminate UNC’s carbon footprint over the next several decades.

In order to obtain the gas, Barner says his team used a process involving wells.

“We put in a system of wells in both the north and south landfill, we cleaned it up by getting the moisture out of it, and we can flare what we don’t use,” he says.

Orange County Solid Waste Management Director Gayle Wilson says this project will be particularly useful once Carolina North’s buildings are actually constructed.

“At some point in the future, whenever there’s a building constructed on the Horace Williams track, that power will be used to power the facilities there.”

For now, the electricity is being sold to Duke Energy.

Upon its completion, the Carolina North project will span over 250 acres near the Horace Williams Airport site, two miles away from UNC’s main campus; it’s slated to be used for both academic and research purposes.

Barner says the generator portion of the project will cost between $1 million and $3 million.