Turning Garbage into Electricity
Posted on February 21st, 2014

By, Dr. Nishan Wijesinha (Specialist Consultant); MIS Services, 107 St. Anthony’s Road, Colombo 03

 Disposal of Garbage is the main problem that the cities of today face and the governments are fearful to handle. As a result communities are faced with major health hazards including the fearful dengue.

Burning garbage was something we once did to get rid of garbage that we didn’t know what else to do with.  But old incinerators built a few decades ago were environmental nightmares. They released into the environment large amounts of poison in the form of carbon dioxide, furans, and toxic metals such as mercury.

But today, driven by environmental laws passed to curb the release of such toxins; incinerator technology, has gotten better – a lot better. This new technology burns trash at up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  At that temperature, the molecular bonds in toxic chemicals break down. This means that the exhaust gases can then be used to produce steam to produce electricity.

As a result, today’s incinerators have reduced toxic emissions by around 99.9%; which was seen impossible over few decades ago.

Thus the raw garbage therefore can be burned into RDF (Refused Derived Fuel).

garbage electricity plant
RDF used, as fuel is the most environmentally friendly way to produce electricity.

Waste-to-energy plants generate enough electricity to supply 2.4 million households.

5 Responses to “Turning Garbage into Electricity”

  1. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    I am not sure how this process is done before the garbage is incinerated but garbage contains plenty of processed metals such as copper, iron, even silver which is used in computers. These metals should be extracted before incinerating the garbage. Otherwise it is a great idea.

    Another great form of producing gasoline, gas, ethanol to even jet fuel is algae which blooms fast, cheap to produce and is highly efficient. In an article titled THE POWER OF ALGAE:

    The world of biomass is bursting with hope for algae, however, we must avoid the course of irrational exuberance that plagued past technologies. Many look to algae as the renewable resource to win the battle over global warming, and provide the U.S. with energy security. In reality, algae hold great promise as a resource that, if developed correctly, could become a sustainable biomass source for energy and fuels. We are still years away from developing meaningful quantities, and prudence must govern the safe development of natural algae strains that will have no adverse impacts on ecosystems.

    No one can deny the potential of algae. Unlike traditional oilseed crops, which produce 10 to 100 gallons of oil per acre, algae are mega oil producers capable of producing 1,000 to 5,000 gallons of oil per acre. Oil collected from algae looks very similar, chemically, to crop oils and can be converted to renewable fuel using existing technology. Algae also do not compete with food sources, can grow in nonpotable and saline water on otherwise nonproductive land, treat polluted waters and recycle carbon dioxide (CO2). So if algae are so phenomenal, why aren’t we using them to produce biofuels on a large-scale today?

    Many challenges to large-scale algae-derived renewable fuel exist and span the entire process from algae strain selection, through harvesting, to fuel conversion.

    Although great strides have been made, algae production remains a challenge. Algae grow in shallow ponds or bioreactors where they use photosynthesis (sunlight, CO2 and other nutrients) to grow, reproduce and generate oil. Advancements are needed to optimize the supply of light, CO2, and nutrients to the algae.

    Because of algae’s small size, and tendency to plug/foul filters, harvesting it from water is challenging. Once harvested, the algae undergo energy-intensive drying and oil extraction processes. Research is ongoing to find ways to more efficiently collect oil and algae solids from their waterborne state.

    Economics are also a major challenge facing algae’s future in the renewable fuels industry. Currently, the price of feedstock makes up the largest cost of production and can contribute 80 percent to 90 percent of the final fuel price. The hope is that algae will have the ability to produce oil at a price competitive with petroleum oil at $1 to $2 per gallon. To achieve this, technology advancements need to be demonstrated, but additional characteristics of algae will also need to be fully utilized. Treating impaired water and capturing CO2 will improve the economic viability of algal-based systems. Additionally, the identification and extraction of other valuable products within algae, such as nutrients or pharmaceuticals, will aid in the economic viability of algae.

    Working to overcome these challenges and unleash the potential of algae, the Energy & Environmental Research Center continues to develop pathways to convert algae to renewable fuels. The EERC is currently teamed with Science Applications International Corp., and others to further demonstrate the EERC process to convert any oil, including algae oil, to “drop-in” compatible fuels.

    The EERC has maintained its focus on producing drop-in compatible renewable fuels, meaning that they are virtually indistinguishable from traditional petroleum-based fuels. The EERC and others are engaged in developing an economical process for the production and subsequent conversion of algal biomass to liquid fuels that are identical to gasoline, jet fuel and diesel. These algae-derived renewable fuels have the potential to rival petroleum fuels and truly be the new super fuel.

  2. Nimal Says:

    This might pollute the air, but I would recommend solar power, grid connected if possible in every home. My home in SL produces nearly 15 KWH per day from solar grid connected setup. My folks use electric cookers from solar electrics, also they have a solar hot water system. Government must use much of it’s tax and other incomes to install grid connected solar panels for the poorest and subsidized for the rest. Energy costs will increase as time goes.

  3. mjaya Says:

    This is something good.

    As long as it can be viably implemented, it has two fold benefits, getting rid of garbage and producing electricity.

    This is the type of article you should be publishing, not articles that intentionally or unintentionally appear as subtle advertisements, or articles that (intentionally or unintentionally) hide (or leave out) obvious facts. This one has none of those two.

  4. dingiri bandara Says:

    One of the best solutions will be to reduce the amount of garbage produced. The world is technology is so advanced and there are so many smart and capable people but there is no political will. We need to invest in biodegradable packaging and convert the organic garbage into fertilizer.Also, the people need be educated.

  5. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Nimal: I fully agree with you. Since solar panels are still expensive to the villager what the government can do is convert all government buildings to solar generated buildings. Give incentives such as tax breaks to hotels and other businesses to follow suite. Regarding the villagers a joint government and private investment could transform the country side.
    Along the lines of clean energy a program by both the government and business to give bicycles to the villages would cut the number that would use mass transportation and be a clean source of transportation.

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