Way back in 1968, the city of Mountain View, Calif., set aside a 500-acre site for the dumping of garbage from San Francisco. After closing 13 years later, the dump was gradually turned into park land, incorporating a lake and a golf course. But the garbage didn't go away, and build-up of methane gas had to be burned off regularly. Until now, that is.

This spring, Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will begin using the methane produced by the old city dump as a cost-effective way of powering its nearby facility. The methane is not only cheaper than natural gas, there is also enough of it under the golf course, J&J believes, to supply half of the facility's energy needs–at a flat rate–for 15 years. "It has been a great project from lots of viewpoints," says Dennis Canavan, executive director for worldwide energy management at J&J headquarters in New Brunswick, N.J. "We get a cheap source of fuel for the next 15 years, the city gets some income, and the environment doesn't have methane pumped into it."

Tapping the site's gas supply involved some upfront costs. Canavan says that J&J spent $7 million buying three one-megawatt generators and laying a mile of pipe to connect the landfill to the company's facilities. Another $3 million was funded by the state of California–a contribution not every company can count on.

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