The Green Scene

Here’s a roundup of recent local environmental news.

Greenville, S.C., gasses up

As a global-warming catalyst, methane packs a punch: The Environmental Protection Agency says the gas “is 21 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, by weight.” Decomposing wastes produce methane, making landfills the biggest source of the gas in the U.S.

Fortunately, methane can also serve as a new energy source. At the former Buncombe County landfill in Woodfin, for example, methane is captured and burned to produce almost 1,000 kilowatts of electricity annually (some of it is sold to the Metropolitan Sewerage District for a sludge-drying project). Nearly 500 similar efforts are under way across the country, the EPA reports.

As part of its Landfill Methane Outreach Program, the agency recently recognized a South Carolina venture as one of the seven best in the nation. The Enoree Landfill Gas-to-Energy Green Power Project is a collaborative effort involving Greenville Gas Producers; Greenville County, S.C.; Duke Energy Carolinas and Blanchard Machinery Co. The captured gas fuels two Caterpillar engines to produce about 3.2 megawatts of electricity per year—enough to power about 2,000 average-size homes. The Enoree project ramped up last fall.

Warren Wilson student honored

The National Wildlife Federation has named Warren Wilson College junior Gideon Burdick a 2008 Campus Ecology Fellow. The Ohio native was chosen for proposing an energy-monitoring system for the college’s residence halls. The system will provide real-time feedback on student energy consumption and its impacts. The award comes with a stipend.

In other green news, the college has obtained its third gold-level LEED certification—the Village North residence hall (the Doug and Darcy Orr Cottage was the first, and Village South was No. 2). Designed by Performa Higher Education and built with extensive student input, the arts-and-crafts structure features apartment-style dorms. (The national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program promotes environmentally responsible design and construction practices.)

Mars Hill College takes the LEED

A $60,000 Kresge Foundation grant will help Mars Hill College design its first LEED-certified building. Not to be outdone by Warren Wilson, Mars Hill is aiming for platinum certification—the LEED program’s highest level of energy efficiency—for Day Hall, a 36,000-square-foot, multipurpose facility.

Providing classroom space and expanded facilities for the college’s rapidly growing business major, Day Hall will also include a new college bookstore, café and student gathering places. It will connect to Mars Hill’s historic Owen Theatre—home to both the college’s acclaimed theater program and the Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre. If all goes well, it will become the first LEED-certified building in Madison County.

Green gatherings

If going green ranks among your New Year’s resolutions, check out the Going Green Lecture Series sponsored by Historic Johnson Farm and the Hendersonville-based Environmental and Conservation Organization. The series kicks off with a Feb. 3 film-and-discussion event at 7 p.m. at the farm, titled “Finding the Balance Between Growth and our Natural Environmental Heritage.” ECO Executive Director David Weintraub will lead the discussion. Other topics include a Feb. 10 panel discussion (“Henderson County’s Environmental Heritage and How to Protect It”), a Feb. 17 discussion on “Bird Migrations, Habitats and Nesting Patterns,” and a Feb. 24 lecture on “Environmentally Friendly Building and/or Remodeling Practices.”

For more information, contact ECO (692-0385; or the farm (891-6585;

Net zero in Hendersonville

Architect Ken Gaylord plans to turn one of downtown Hendersonville’s oldest buildings into a net-zero-energy structure. Gaylord owns the 1925 building at 101 First Ave. W., home to West First Pizza, the 310 South Main Sales Center and the local Democratic Party headquarters. To make it self-sufficient in terms of energy, the HVAC, hot water and lighting systems will be updated. Photovoltaic panels, solar thermal and other clean sources will supply all the energy used, according to the renovation team at Ken Gaylord Architects.

The first step is a “building air-tightness test,” to be conducted by mechanical engineer Amy Musser of VandeMusser Design in Asheville. Next comes assessing all the points where energy is used and where efficiencies can be achieved. Finally, an energy model developed using this data will reveal how much clean energy needs to be generated to achieve net-zero status.

“With the known effects that coal-fired power has on our climate, our air and our water, it is time to get serious about clean energy,” Gaylord proclaims. “What better place to start than in our own backyard?” He invites the public to stop by and follow the renovations over the winter months.

For more information, contact Diane Rhoades at 698-3310.

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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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