Dane Co. saving hundreds of thousands of dollars annually with natural gas-fueled vehicles

MADISON, Wis. — Dane County is hitting a milestone the day before Earth Day when it comes to building its “green fleet.”

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced Thursday the county has acquired another vehicle that runs on renewable fuel, expanding its fleet to 100 RNG and RNG/gas hybrid vehicles, to go with its 3 electric vehicles and 13 hybrid electric vehicles.

Parisi’s office estimates the county saved more than $139,000 last year by using compressed natural gas and RNG instead of diesel in its vehicles. If diesel prices remain high — currently in the $4.50 per gallon range — the county could save more than $350,000 this year by using the renewable fuel.

About 20 percent of the fuel county vehicles used in the last year was renewable, with 136,000 gallons of CNG and RNG being used, compared to 250,000 gallons of diesel and 285,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline.

Parisi says the county is able to generate its own natural gas from waste at the Dane County landfill, also saving money that way, and selling the extra compressed natural gas the county does not use to Kwik Trip. All of that has allowed the machinery used to convert methane into natural gas to virtually pay for itself after just three years, leaving the county with nothing but profit going forward, Parisi said.

“This allows us to do the right thing financially while at the same time doing the right thing for the planet,” Parisi said during an event Thursday.

The county expects to get decades’ worth of gas production from repurposing the waste from the current landfill site, even after it shuts down and a new facility is opened up.

Officials say the power generated by natural gas is not noticeably different compared to the power generated by traditional fuels, and it also lowers engine-cleaning costs.

The transition to renewable fuel began a decade ago, when high gas prices in 2012 spurred the decision to pursue more alternative fuel-powered vehicles.

Parisi’s 2022 budget includes more than $10 million in further investments in the program, including $5 million for RNG trailers to fuel Dane County vehicles in parts of the county where RNG filling stations are harder to find, $2 million for a new RNG filling station at the county’s Fish Hatchery Road garage and $3.2 million to buy eight more RNG-powered snowplows.