An analysis of the potential for gases leaking from landfills and wastewater sludge to become a source of renewable energy – the work of Green Team interns at the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies – is drawing attention for its future potential for use in home heating.
The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Sustainability, is seen as a model for other states and countries assessing the feasibility of clean energy alternatives, specifically not wasting the energy that’s naturally created by waste.
“It’s pretty ironic,” says Justin Bates ’20, a member of the Green Team sponsored by the New Jersey Resources subsidiary New Jersey Natural Gas. “You think about clean energy coming from solar or wind, but you wouldn’t expect that ‘dirty’ energy sources coming from a landfill or a wastewater treatment [plant] can be renewable and clean.”
It’s the type of “outside the box” thinking that the Green Teams are known for, says Amy Tuininga, director of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies based at Montclair State University. “Our undergraduates are bright, innovative and ready to apply what they learn in class to real-world issues. They have lots of energy.”
For the past five years, the student internship program has undertaken noteworthy research and community projects, including climate change in New Jersey and energy and water studies globally. It has also been a key platform for launching participating students into internships, green jobs and graduate study.
For the 2019 New Jersey Natural Gas Green Team, it’s done all that – and more.
The publication in February of the team’s study, “The Feasibility of Renewable Natural Gas in New Jersey,” is the latest in a series of accolades. The student interns spoke in August 2019 during a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities review of the New Jersey energy master plan, presented their research at the national Bioenergy Sustainability Conference in Nashville in fall 2019 and were acknowledged at the annual shareowners meeting of New Jersey Resources that year.
“It was shocking, one after the other, how our research had an impact on a lot of different people and how they took it as the next step in renewable energy,” says Bates, who earned a degree from Montclair State in Physics, with a minor in Mathematics and concentration in Astronomy. He was recently hired as a data analyst for the New Jersey solar-panel company Green State Energy.