[Greenbuilding] Another Green Myth: Garbage Incinerators Are Green Sources of Energy

Erin Rasmussen erin at trmiles.com
Thu Dec 1 12:23:43 PST 2011


Okay, to address the unfeasible question I'll go backward before I go
forward.  I am not by any means an expert in this area, but this is the back
story that I was thinking of as I wrote that message.

 

In burning clean waste for energy, you are essentially create a company that
has to operate at enough of a profit to be able to keep paying their
employees and keep up with maintenance to the facility and the machinery
needed to perform that task (and cover your other overhead).  On top of
that, these energy plants can be  expensive, and the investors typically
want to be paid back some amount of profit for their initial investment. 

 

Fuels derived from clean, unrecyclable sources are often oddly shaped and
require specialized material handling to put them into a form that can be
efficiently burned in a power plant, and the cost of that handling can make
the fuel expensive. 

 

These plants also typically operate in a market where they compete with some
relatively inexpensive forms of power. So, the plant may not be able to sell
enough power at a high enough profit to pay for the expensive fuel, the
maintenance of the facility and the pay of the employees. (I'm ignoring the
investors for now).  Those are some factors that  can make the plant
unfeasible.   

 

In some areas, there are incentives for disposing of waste (tipping fees
etc) that can make up the difference in price and allow the power plant to
operate at enough of a profit to ensure continued operation.  (I don't get
the sense that companies are making a lot of money in this area the profit
off of wind turbines is a lot higher and that seems to be driving some of
the growth in that area). 

 

In addition to the obvious necessity of keeping the doors open on your
facility, there's the "will of the people" in your area.  In some areas, the
local community is supportive of the plant, and there tends to be a positive
experience, but in many areas of the country the community is less
supportive and/or actively working against your facility (or proposed
facility) and in those areas the experience of the people who own and run
the plant can be quite different. 

 

Cheers,

Erin 

erin at trmiles.com

 

From: greenbuilding-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org
[mailto:greenbuilding-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org] On Behalf Of John
Salmen
Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 7:12 PM
To: 'Green Building'; 'Reuben Demling'; 'Gennaro Brooks-Church'
Subject: Re: [Greenbuilding] Another Green Myth: Garbage Incinerators Are
Green Sources of Energy

 

I am confused as to why you mention burning in the USA as 'unfeasible'. Is
it because recycling has not yet claimed the bulk of the waste and burning
would divert too much of a recyclable stream?

 

John

 

 

From: greenbuilding-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org
[mailto:greenbuilding-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org] On Behalf Of Erin
Rasmussen
Sent: November-29-11 3:12 PM
To: 'Green Building'; 'Reuben Demling'; 'Gennaro Brooks-Church'
Subject: Re: [Greenbuilding] Another Green Myth: Garbage Incinerators Are
Green Sources of Energy

 

With respect to burning waste to generate power, it's a lot smarter to say
that it depends a lot on the waste being incinerated, and the way that it is
being done.  In general burning municipal waste is in the USA unfeasible,
but there are fuels like waste wood and non-recyclable waste paper that can
be burned cleanly to generate electricity.  And like people using wood to
heat their homes in efficient wood stoves, there are ways to burn clean
wastes (wood, some types of crop residues, waste paper) on a municipal scale
and there are places in Europe where they have several years experience
doing just that under much tougher environmental rules than we have here. 

 

For some examples check out the Gasification Discussion List, and its web
site: 

http://gasifiers.bioenergylists.org/

 

Cheers,

Erin Rasmussen

BioEnergy Discussion List

erin at trmiles.com

 

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