17 January 2008

Garbage to Energy: An Update

Nothing signifies a society's determination to hit back at entropy so much as using its garbage to generate energy, or to produce other usable goods from garbage. Currently, there are several approaches to creating energy from garbage in North America. The video above demonstrates some of the methods, while the link below presents much more detail from six different companies.
Who would have ever thought that junk and sewage could be cost-effectively turned into a valuable commodity? It turns out that there are several approaches being developed -- and even some already in commercial operation -- that, with tipping fees, can turn a profit from turning garbage and sewage into electricity and fuel.

According to their Vice President, Lynn Brown, Waste Management, the company the comes around to haul off garbage, is increasingly turning some of that garbage into energy -- enough to power over one million homes -- the equivalent of 14 million barrels of oil per year or 3.6 million tons of coal. And the company has a goal to double that amount to 2 million homes by 2020. (http://www.wm.com/thinkgreen)

Some landfills now capture the methane that comes out of the buried trash, which used to escape into the atmosphere as a potent greenhouse gas. Instead, they now burn this methane to run generators. Solar Hydrogen Energy Corporation (SHEC Labs) has developed a process that uses solar energy to convert this methane into hydrogen, and expect that within 5 years they will compete with the cheapest sources of Hydrogen.

One approach being pursued by several companies is to turn the incoming waste into plasma through a high intensity electrical arc. In the plasma state, the inflow is broken down to its elemental components -- individual atoms. What comes out is a burnable gas and an inert solid that can be used for things like pavement, bricks, and other building materials. Starting out, they are targeting medical waste because of its high tipping fees.

Green Power Inc has developed a method of inexpensively converting biomass and municipal waste into high quality diesel fuel, solving the world's energy and waste problems at the same time, without upsetting the CO2 balance. Peswicki
Visit the Peswicki website quoted above for much more information. Anyway, speaking of garbage, most people value pond scum at the same level as garbage. But would you believe that pond scum algae may be one profitable approach to dumping fossil fuels in favour of clean sustainable energy?

Innovation in the energy industry is spurred by higher fossil fuel prices. For the next two or three decades--until fossil fuels are largely unnecessary--prices will remain high. But that is exactly the incentive necessary to spur ingenuity in creating alternatives.

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Blogger Bruce Hall said...

Other info on plasma.


My commentary:

Friday, 18 January, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Thanks for the links, Bruce.

Friday, 18 January, 2008  

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