Michael Hatch working on a new glass creation
At the EnergyXchange (between Burnsville and Spruce Pine), see art and craft being created at perhaps the first studios to be fueled by landfill methane gas! The furnaces and glory holes in the glass studio burn year round while the pottery kiln is fired every week or two. Methane gas is also used to heat water for an in-floor radiant heat system to warm the studios. The landfill gas is provided at no additional cost to the resident artists, with a projected total savings over the life of the project estimated at over one million dollars with this renewable energy.
The EnergyXchange Craft Incubator program was established to support six talented artists in starting, managing, and operating their own small business in the crafts of glass blowing and pottery. The program helps artists develop both their craft and business skills. Craft residencies are available to four potters and two glassblowers, who are competitively selected by media-specific juries for the opportunity to work in fully equipped, shared studios on the EnergyXchange campus at a nominal cost.
The EnergyXchange campus and the resident artists welcome visitors daily. Come see how the responsible use of landfill gas is transforming “trash into treasure” while benefiting our planet by reducing global warming. It's about 30 miles northeast of Asheville, in a very scenic part of the North Carolina mountains near Mt. Mitchell Scenic Byway in Burnsville.
The area is rich in cultural, natural, and historic assets including the legendary Penland School of Craft, Mayland Community College and Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.
Residents of Yancey and Mitchell counties are concerned about conservation and economic prosperity. When the landfill that served the two counties was closed in 1994, extensive research and a lot of brainstorming generated a host of ideas for reuse. As home to some of America’s most creative artists and beautiful native plants, the Yancey-Mitchell landfill seemed the perfect place for developing craft incubator studios and greenhouses to cultivate endangered flora while utilizing the landfill gas.
What is landfill gas?
As the municipal solid waste decomposes beneath the surface of the landfill cap, landfill gas is created. Landfill gas consists of about 50% methane, the primary component of natural gas, and 50% carbon dioxide, with a small amount of other compounds. Ordinarily, without a collection system, the landfill gas moves upward and finds places to escape into the air. At EnergyXchange the landfill gas is captured and used as an energy source. This helps reduce local smog and global climate change.
On Earth Day 1999 the landfill gas system was activated. By 2001, the campus was complete and the first six artists had begun their residencies. EnergyXchange has become one of the nation’s model energy recovery projects and is used internationally as an example of successful small landfill gas projects. For example, the EPA Methane to Markets Program included the EnergyXchange project in a 2008 landfill gas workshop in Poland. Methane gas from the decomposing trash powers ovens for glass blowers, a pottery kiln, and supplies radiant heat for the studios and greenhouse, saving $1 million in energy costs over the landfill’s 20-year reuse cycle. By burning the methane it combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. Methane is a ‘greenhouse gas’ that is 21 times more effective at holding heat than carbon dioxide. According to the EPA’s feasibility study, the environmental impact of this project is equivalent to planting 14,000 acres of trees or taking 21,000 cars off the road in North Carolina each year.
The “three Es” of EnergyXchange’s local impact are: Environment, Education, and Economics. The programs that facilitate this local impact are the craft business incubator program, project branch out, and the landfill gas system itself. Many school groups, civic organizations, governmental agencies, and individuals interested in alternate energy come to EnergyXchange for a guided tour. These tours provide information on landfill gas, wind energy, and solar energy, as well as, horticulture and aquaculture.
Project Branch Out began with the strategy to nurture small agricultural activities in rural western North Carolina. The Appalachian Mountains offer an unequaled array of native ornamentals. It helps diversify local crops and propagates endangered species. While the area has a rich agricultural history found in burley tobacco, Christmas trees, woody and herbaceous ornamentals, beef cattle and vegetable production, these two counties have experienced declining availability of indigenous plants – such as rhododendron and native azaleas – that are a cash crop for local nurseries and export. At EnergyXchange, they grow several varieties of evergreen rhododendrons and deciduous azaleas from seeds that have been collected locally, and sell them in containers to
local growers. The quilt block at EnergyXchange is titled “Flower of the Woods” and is meant to depict the range of colors possible in the flower of the Flame.
Directions From Asheville through Burnsville:
- From I-26 West toward Tennessee take exit 9 (Burnsville exit).
- On Hwy 19E north travel approximately 21 miles, passing through Burnsville, Mt. Mitchell Scenic Byway.
- Turn left onto Hwy 80 north and travel about 3 miles.
- Turn left onto Landfill Road. Follow the signs to EnergyXchange.
Monday–Friday 9am – 4pm
Saturday 9am – 12 Noon