Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Energy from Trash Should Be a Priority for Hawaii

Read the full article in Honolulu Civil Beat. Selected highlights:

The long term economy of Waste to Energy (WtE) plants is very good. There is plenty fuel (trash, waste and biomass). Municipalities pay the WtE plant to take their trash. The utility pays the WtE plant for the mega-watts of electricity it produces. Trash volume reduces 6 to 10 times so landfill demand is minimized.
  • Sweden imports waste from other Europe to fuel its WtE program. Maui should install a WtE plant and bring in trash from Big Island, Lanai and Molokai. Oahu should plan for another 100 MW of WtE (about half of it tuned to burn biomass, sludge and manure) and bring in trash from Kauai. Barges return to Honolulu from Kauai practically empty.
  • Both Oahu and Maui should consider ordering a sophisticated MRF, or Materials Recovery Facility, to better sort materials such as glass (by color), stones and similar inert materials, and all types of metals out of the trash. This would result in a cleaner burn at the WtE plant and revenue from recyclables, e.g., mixed glass is nearly worthless but glass sorted by color has value. So do sorted metals.
  • To make Oahu more sustainable we should revise what we currently trash and what we recycle at home in the BLACK, GREEN and BLUE bins, as detailed in the post below.
Last but not least, The Economist notes that "Energy from waste plants that use trash as a fuel to generate electricity and heat continue to have an image problem. That is unfair, because the technology has advanced considerably and has cleaned up its act." As depicted in the image blow, very large part of modern WtE plants is devoted to pollution control.