Photo courtesy of Dane County

Photo courtesy of Dane County

Dane County is piloting a compressed natural gas (CNG) snowplow that will be fueled with the renewable CNG generated from decaying garbage at the landfill.

County officials say that by using natural gas, the county will save $6,000 in fuel costs per CNG plow per year. Renewable CNG costs $1.25 per gallon, while diesel costs nearly $4 per gallon.

The county is also looking to expand its CNG use after recording savings of $50,000 annually from its 30-vehicle natural gas fleet. Using CNG for 30 of its vehicles has offset the use of approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel and gasoline, according to a county release. These vehicles consist of Ford F-150s, an F-350, an F-450, and a couple of sedans, Communications Director Casey Becker said.

"The county's fleet of snow plows has gotten a real workout this winter and this new CNG technology holds great promise for reducing fuel and maintenance costs," said County Executive Joe Parisi. "By using more of the cheaper, cleaner, renewable CNG that we make right here in Dane County at our landfill we're making an investment that makes sense for taxpayers and the environment."

Another benefit seen so far is reduced maintenance costs, officials said. CNG vehicles show significantly less engine wear, spark plugs last longer, and oil changes are needed less frequently.

The 2014 county budget included $2.3 million to acquire 13 new CNG vehicles to replace aging vehicles in the fleet, including eight snow plows.

The county plans to convert its entire fleet to run on CNG by 2023. The Dane County Board will consider awarding consultant Baker Tilly to help the county develop a roadmap for expanded CNG use throughout county operations.

The plan will assess the possibility of converting the county's entire fleet to CNG vehicles in the next decade, taking into consideration fueling station infrastructure; vehicle and equipment maintenance; staff training; and other costs. The CNG expansion plan is anticipated in August.

This story was edited 2/24/14 at 2:39 p.m.