Making renewable energy work

  • Ener-G SA's project manager Greg Midlane
  • Connecting main gas line to manifold.
  • An Ener-G Systems crew drills a well into the Robinson Deep lanfill site to capture the methane produced by decomposing waste.
  • Once fully developed_ the Robinson Deep landfill site_ situated in Turffontein south of JHB_ is expected to produce 3 000 cubic metres of methane per hour.
Date:26 October 2011 Author: Sean Woods Tags:,

We’ve all heard earnest government officials and well-dressed financial pundits speak rapturously about the huge potential the burgeoning renewable energy sector has to boost job creation. But how much of what they say is to be believed? I speak to Ener-G Systems’ project manager Greg Midlane, a man fortunate enough to be working in the field, and get his take on the situation.

Stomping around a rancid landfill site – like Midlane does on an almost daily basis while maintaining or developing the methane gas extraction plants Ener-G Systems puts into place to convert this harmful greenhouse gas into electricity – isn’t exactly what you would call an edifying pastime, but it’s an experience he wouldn’t change for the world. “I sometimes wonder how I ended up always standing on rubbish dumps, says Midlane with a grin. “But I love the concept of renewable energy, for me it a fantastic industry.”

And, while many of us were (and in some cases still are) stressing about keeping our jobs through the recession, Midlane remained as busy as ever, saying “During the worldwide recession we just kept on growing.”

Unfortunately, you can’t study landfill gas generation at university – the course simply doesn’t exist. So once Midlane finished his electrical engineering degree, he headed off overseas to gain some much-needed hands-on experience, and ended up spending five years working on projects throughout Europe for the UK-based renewable energy giant Ener-G.

Midlane returned home this January and hasn’t looked back since. Ener-G Systems is in the process of developing five landfill projects in the Johannesburg area, which Midlane hopes to have fully operational by mid-2012. The company also intends expanding their operations countrywide, concentrating first on the major centres. Once that’s done, all the smaller cities with medium landfill sites will be in their sights.

“Although the renewable energy sector here at home is in its infancy,” says Midlane. “Give it 20 to 30 years and its going to be a huge industry. I was just lucky in being able to get into an established overseas company, gain my experience and then come home again; it’s given me a huge career advantage.”

Well, there you have it. Judging by what Midlane has to say, it sounds like the boffins way up high have been talking sense for a change.

• To find out how landfill gas gets converted into electricity, get your hands on the November 2011 issue of PM – on sale now. If you would like to know more, contact Ener-G systems on 031-564 0222. Alternatively, visit



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