Friday, July 18, 2008

Harnessing Energy from Trash

Britain is taking another important step in reducing its dependency on fossil fuel as energy resource. This summer this country is constructing its first gasification plant worth of 16 million US dollar with a capacity of 2.3 MW in Isle of Wight . The plant will turn 30,000 tons of rubbish a year into gas and burn it to produce electricity for 2,000 homes. The plant will be constructed by Energos, a Norwegian energy company.

During the gasification process, the waste will be mixed with small amount of oxygen, and then heated at high temperature of around 1,830 degrees Fahrenheit. The technique is similar to the gasification of coal to produce syngas.
Last year Britain tossed 16.9 million tons of trash into landfills - this amount is higher than any European countries. Although Britain has allocated 109 square miles for waste burial, it may run out of space within nine years. Landfills release methane which is a major greenhouse gas.
Engineers stated that the trash the UK throws away could produce 17% of its energy needs. Britain might build incinerators but besides they are expensive, they also release many pollutants from their smokestacks. Many environmentalists object to waste to energy schemes instead they recommend more recycling efforts. However, there are economical and practical limits to how much waste can be recycled.
Burning city waste to produce energy does not mean that city dwellers can enjoy cheap electricity. The installation of gasification plant costs a lot of money and the company has to sell the electricity in a price where it can make a fair return of investment. by Charles Roring