Reaching King County’s ambitious climate goals could be compared to climbing a mountain in the North Cascades. It requires dedication and endurance, sound decision-making, and know-how. Luckily, the County has enlisted a fleet of goats to help us summit the zero emissions mountaintop. These goats, however, are a bit different than the hoofed ruminants that traverse the highest peaks in Washington.
Yard goats, also called yard trucks, are vehicles used by King County’s Solid Waste Division to maneuver freight containers around our transfer stations where bigger tractor-trailer trucks can’t go.
Division staff use the yard goats to connect empty containers with compactors below the transfer station tipping floor where the containers are filled with compacted garbage or organic yard waste. Workers use the goats to remove the full containers from the compactor area and park them to be picked up by larger trucks. Garbage is taken to Cedar Hills Regional Landfill for disposal and the yard waste goes to Cedar Grove to be turned into compost.
Traditionally, yard goats have been powered by diesel, but King County is working to transition to an all-electric fleet. Since 2021, the Solid Waste Division has rolled out electric yard goats at the Bow Lake and Shoreline recycling and transfer stations. This effort supports the County’s long-term climate goals, formalized in the 2020 Strategic Climate Action Plan.
“One of Solid Waste Division’s main goals is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our operations,” said Jamey Barker, Solid Waste Division engineer and project manager for the yard goat transition. “Transitioning from diesel to electric equipment allows us to continue doing our work in a more sustainable way.”
Partners at the federal, state, and local level have provided invaluable support in this transition. The yard goats at the Shoreline Recycling and Transfer Station were paid for in part by federal and state funding. Puget Sound Clean Air Agency (PSCAA) was awarded and administered a grant through Ecology’s Clean Diesel program. Funding for this grant was provided by EPA’s State Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) Program and Ecology’s Clean Diesel Program.
“Diesel pollution can cause health problems such as asthma, heart attacks, strokes and cancer,” said Beth Carper, Air Resources Specialist from the PSCAA. “We’re very excited to partner with King County on this project, which will help improve air quality in the community and will help the region meet its clean air and climate goals.”
After conducting research of potential battery electric cargo handling equipment, the division decided to purchase the goats from Orange EV. The new vehicles have required only minor modifications to transfer station equipment and the installation of 50 kilowatt fast chargers, which used existing electrical infrastructure. The units are used for about three to four hours each day and are fully charged between uses.
The new yard goats build on other electrification efforts by the division, including an electric heavy-duty truck that rolled out last summer. The new electric truck is being used to transport garbage between our Enumclaw Recycling and Transfer Station and the landfill.
The County is continuing its electrification transition with 12 new electric yard goats planned for the Houghton, Factoria, Renton, Enumclaw, and Vashon transfer stations by the end of 2024. It’s estimated that each yard goat will save about 9.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in emissions per year.
“The yard goats in Shoreline alone will reduce our diesel consumption by about 1,000 gallons every year,” said Barker. “We’re really excited to reduce our carbon footprint even more as our electric fleet continues to grow.”