Waste-to-energy (also known as energy-from-waste) is a complicated technology in the realm of renewable energy. There are a lot of hidden truths and myths about this technology that people need to be aware of. Renewable energy technologies, like solar and wind, have much more simple processes and gain most of the attention from media outlets.
On the converse, renewable energy sources that are highly complex like nuclear energy have a bunch of media attention as well.
So, why don’t we discuss a bit more about this relatively unknown technology and asset class? Here I’ll discuss a number of the most important facts about waste-to-energy (abbreviated as WTE).
Interesting Facts About Waste-to-Energy
Let’s get into our facts about waste-to-energy that you need to know.
1. Waste-to-Energy Can Provide Baseload Power
The most familiar renewable energy resources such as wind and solar can only provide power if the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. WTE projects can actually provide baseload power that is used to serve consumers and the grid no matter the time of day or if the sun is shining or not.
Baseload power is essentially when intermittent resources like solar and wind become more prevalent.
2. Not All WTE Projects are Clean and Green
While waste-to-energy projects would seem to be green and clean because they turn trash into power or gas. However, some projects require long hauling of trash to bring to the actual incineration facility. This actually ends up require much more emissions from the trash haulers than alternatives.
One solution to this would be to help promote the use of electric vehicles and electric vehicle technology to be installed in trucking, like waste hauling.
3. WTE Projects Can Reduce Use of Landfills
Landfills have increased at an exponential pace the in last 100 years. Waste-to-energy projects are an awesome alternative to landfills as the trash is used to provide electricity or fuel.
WTE projects reduce waste volumes by approximately 90%, which results in fewer landfills that are needed to process ash. This ends up protecting our natural resources and land in a dramatic fashion.
5. WTE Projects have Multiple Revenue Streams
Waste-to-energy projects are extremely complicated and expensive to build. Most of the investor economic interest is driven by financial incentives, renewable identification numbers, tax credits, etc. to help these projects get financed.
Beyond these other financial incentives, some of the waste-to-energy projects produce a byproduct, named biochar, which has multiple applications and fetches good prices. The biochar can usually end up providing the most value in the revenue stream or investability of the project itself.
In addition to other economic streams, waste-to-energy projects usually require high tipping fees. A tipping fee is what the trash hauler has to pay in order to dump the trash at the facility. With WTE projects, the tipping fee can end up being 50-60% of the overall revenue stack.
5. WTE Facilities are Net Greenhouse Gas Reducers
Methane has more than 20 times the potency of carbon dioxide and is ranked as a very dangerous contributor to climate change and warming of our planet. WTE facilities avoid the productions of methane and end up producing up to 10 times more the electricity than landfill gas projects. If you didn’t know, landfills can actually end up producing electricity by capture the methane gas and compressing it into a consumable natural gas for power.
WTE projects will usually have much more capacity than any landfill gas projects.
You can’t use waste-to-energy projects at your home similar to solar or even wind to get free electricity. However, knowing about projects in your area and the relevant suppliers will help you understand whether or not the technology is a perfect fit for your community. If you see a project coming online in your surrounding area, you should know how to ask the right questions.
At the end of the day, WTE projects are green and clean. They just need to have the right systems in place to make them more efficient and less risky to appeal new investor appetite. What fact was your favorite about waste-to-energy?
Do you know much about waste-to-energy projects? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.