Lancaster County is known for its traditional covered bridges and being the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. But the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority (LCSWMA), by contrast, has made its mark by operating in a very non-traditional manner.

The county operates the usual landfill and household hazardous waste facility, of course. But LCSWMA, located in a south-central Pennsylvania county with a population of a little more than 500,000, also operates a wind power generation project and has solar panels on its transfer station complex. The authority put its money to work, loaning funds for projects and capitalizing on the interest.

LCSWMA is close to completing three other breakthrough projects, says James Warner, CEO of the authority. It is purchasing the waste-to-energy (WTE) facility in Harrisburg, expanding beyond the county. It’s selling part of its land to Salisbury, Md.-based Perdue Farms for a soybean crushing facility, and will provide steam for its processing needs. And LCSWMA is building a compressed natural gas (CNG) station for use by both internal and external vehicles.

“I think where they’re really unique is the extent they’ve gone to in order to derive resources from the waste,” says John Skinner, executive director and CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA). “They’re very forward-looking.”

The Harrisburg WTE facility processes 800 tons per day. And while it is outside the county, it is only 18 miles away from LCSWMA’s existing WTE facility. The Harrisburg facility was available because the city is deeply in debt due to the project. Warner says he hopes to have a final agreement in March or April. “We were able to come in and pay a fair value, negotiate a contract and provide the type of service for the county that we’ve provided here.”

The acquisition will increase LCSWMA’s annual waste disposal/processing portfolio by about 50 percent to 900,000 tons annually.  It will add about $32 million in revenue to push the authority’s total WTE revenue to $85 million to $87 million.

With the Purdue project LCSWMA will sell the food producer steam extracted from its WTE turbine and water. The project will strengthen the local agricultural business. “We didn’t want to sell the property to someone to just make a warehouse and not use the energy (LCSWMA is generating),” Warner says. “We diversify our energy customers and we increase our overall energy revenue.”