Waste energy generates more power than solar energyMay 1, 2014
Garbage is proving to be an impressive alternative energy source.
According to the waste and environmental services company, Waste Management, Inc. (WM), it produced 9.82 million megawatt hours (MWh) of waste energy in 2013, which is higher than the 9.25 million MWh that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports was generated by the U.S. solar energy industry, last year.
Gas from trash in landfills is used to create renewable energy.
Waste Management’s method for converting waste into energy is a process that starts with collecting and sorting commercial and residential waste. The waste that is collected, sorted and brought to landfills is digested by bacteria. This leads to the production of carbon dioxide and methane gas. Wells that have been drilled into the landfills are used to recover the gas. The gas is collected and transported to a compression facility where the water is removed so the gas can be filtered and pressurized. Finally, after being piped to a plant where electricity is produced, the gas is utilized as fuel to generate energy.
According to WM’s CEO David Steiner, “what we do is take the methane that’s created there—[it’s] 22 times worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas—we capture that methane gas and make energy out of it.”
In addition to generating energy from gas produced by waste, the company also converts trash to produce thermal energy. At present, there are a total of 17 waste-to-energy plants that are owned or operated by Wheelabrator Technologies, a wholly owned subsidiary of WM.
In addition to producing waste energy trash can also give an idea as to how well the economy is thriving.
Steiner notes that there is “always more garbage because the economy is doing better, across a wide variety of spectrums.” He also commented that of all the materials Waste Management recycles, “cardboard is our most profitable stream in our recycling.” The reason is many items are shipped in a box, especially items that are purchased online. An increase in online shopping means more boxes.
However, in addition to profitable recycling, Waste Management is certainly showing that it can transform garbage into money through the creation of waste energy.