Waste To Energy Systems

Monthly Archives: August 2015

Five Green Projects in New Orleans

New Orleans is in the spotlight these days with the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this past weekend. As a resident of New Orleans during this life changing time, it is important for this blogger to shed a positive light on the anniversary. With a lot of controversy on how well New Orleans has recovered, it is important to recognize the victories New Orleans has reached and how it has expanded its horizons past its previous existence. One aspect is the insurgence of green projects that have developed since the storm. We are listing five that were highlighted from the Huffington Post article “5 Post-Katrina Innovations New Orleans Can Brag About”

1. OysterBreak
The world is your oyster. At least it is for Tyler Ortego, Matt Campbell, and two professors at Louisiana State University, who invented the OysterBreak system in 2005 and brought coastal protection to life, literally. The system, which is essentially a chain of huge linked concrete cylinders, is made of an oyster-growing substrate that, once installed, is colonized by oyster larvae and eventually grows into a living reef. Because these solid reefs grow faster than sea levels rise, they reduce shoreline erosion. ORA Estuaries, the company that Ortego founded in 2010 to run the building and distribution of the oyster reefs, recently won The Big Idea pitch competition at the 2015 New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. As of yet, the oysters can’t be eaten, but Ortego is working on engineering the reefs to double as a sustainable food source.

2. Public Lab
New Orleans residents are bringing DIY to environmental protection. Powered by civic engagement, Public Lab is a nonprofit network of locals who are working to make sophisticated environmental monitoring tools accessible to the general public. They cover everything from water quality evaluation to aerial mapping, coming up with innovative ways to make complex monitoring devices out of inexpensive materials. Travis Haas, an environmental science teacher at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, and his eleventh grade students recently collaborated with Public Lab to map and assess the progress of wetland restoration. Acting as citizen scientists, the high schoolers launched a helium balloon attached to a camera and used Public Lab’s MapKnitter software to piece together the photographs it collected.

3. The Green Project
New Orleans residents say that Hurricane Katrina created 20 years of waste in a single day. True or not, the disaster left the city sitting on over 55 million tons of debris. Enter The Green Project. Founded in 1994 as a paint-recycling business, the New Orleans-based nonprofit stepped up after Katrina, taking materials from destroyed homes and reinvesting them into community rebuilding projects. Ten years later, The Green Project is thriving. The project promotes creative repurposing and prides itself on being accessible to all populations–materials are sold to community members at one-fifth of new retail costs. It also has the only paint-recycling program in the Gulf region and leads regular community recycling education workshops. We agree, it’s pretty much the whole package.

4. Water Wise
It wouldn’t be New Orleans without stormwater management. In 2013, Global Green USA launched its Water Wise NOLA program in New Orleans to advocate for simple solutions to water-related issues, such as flooding and substandard water quality. The organization is working to help residents lower their water bills by reducing consumption and promoting rainwater management. And they host regular rain-barrel builds–does it get better than that?

5. Eco-Friendly Transportation
Don’t worry; the city government is making an effort to green-ify New Orleans, too. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city’s public transportation system in 2005, the Regional Transit Authority was tasked with a massive reconstruction project. Although the bus service is still operating at 35% of pre-Katrina levels, the RTA has made progress. Today, the transit network’s entire fleet is run on biodiesel and sixteen of their buses are biodiesel/electric hybrids. The city has also made pedestrian-friendly improvements to its streetlights. Since 2014, over 4,000 of them have been replaced with energy-efficient LED lights as part of the city’s ongoing Energy Smart Streetlight Conversion Program. We’d call that a step toward a brighter future.

 

Be Green: Eat the Ugly Produce

At Waste to Energy Systems, we are constantly looking for ways to be green and sustainable no matter how big or small the change. Sometimes it is the simplest change that can make a big impact! A recent one popular way to be green is as simple as buying the “ugly” produce on the super market aisle. A recent article discusses how picking up that strangely shaped potato or knobby tomato can make a huge difference in cutting down on food waste, a huge issue in the world.

From the article “Eat Hideously Ugly Produce If You Care About The Planet” from Huffington Post:

One of the simplest things you can do to help the planet thrive is to demand uglier produce. Buy the apple that has a funky knob coming out of its side. It’ll taste just the same as its cosmetically pleasing counterpart. Then tell your local grocer you want more uglies.

THE UGLY FRUIT AND VEG CAMPAIGN

“It’s the low hanging fruit of sustainability,” as Jordan Figueiredo, the co-chair of the Zero Food Waste Forum, punnily puts it. Figueiredo and his partner Stefanie Sacks, a culinary nutritionist, are currently campaigning for a decrease in ugly food waste on Change.org. Their petition, which has more than 44,000 supporters as of August 6, is pushing big food retailers Whole Foods and Walmart to sell “less than perfect”-looking produce in their stores.

It sounds almost trite, but consider this: In the U.S., 26 percent of all produce is wasted before it even reaches the grocery store. (Even more is wasted once it lands in our kitchens.) A lot of that 26 percent is tossed because it doesn’t meet our standard of beautiful. While there’s no official government estimate on uglies waste, one farmer told NPR that about 30-35 percent of his crops is tossed “because of weird, cosmetic things they have.”

Discarding uglies isn’t good for our planet. When dumped into landfills, they decompose and produce methane, a gas that is 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Methane absorbs the heat of the sun, further warming the atmosphere. That’s not to mention the water used in the farming process just to produce food that’s thrown away. According to the UN, the water required to grow food that’s eventually wasted (not just uglies, but all food that winds up uneaten) equals three times the yearly flow of Russia’s Volga River.

Food waste is a colossal issue: Americans waste about 40 percent of their food, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That’s enough food to fill 730 football stadiums. Yet in 2013, 49.1 million American lived in “food insecure” households, meaning they didn’t have dependable access to a commensurable amount of food. Instead of being thrown away, uglies can successfully be sold at a discount, making food more affordable, and farmers would be able to profit from more of their harvest.

The message in all of this seems to be the same one we’ve been taught since our pre-school days: Don’t judge a book by its cover. Eating ugly is a simple, proactive way to begin to undo the trauma we’ve forced upon our planet. There’s much more you can do to conserve and help the earth heal, but you can start by signing the petition and eating ugly.

#LoveUglyFood #EatGreen #Sustainable

Famous Landmarks Get a Green Makeover

Landmarks have always played a key role in a city’s economics because they draw tourists, which in most cities like Paris, Rome, and London plays a huge part in their yearly income. However, the unexpected cost of keeping these landmarks light up, running and awe-inspiring is the environmental impact. The Waste to Energy Systems team wanted to highlight those landmarks that are making the effort to stop making a negative impact and become an attraction for their green initiatives as well.

From the Huffington Post article, “The Eiffel Tower Just Became A Little More Green. Here Are 8 Other Landmarks That Did It First”.

The White House

white house solar
President Jimmy Carter famously had solar panels added to the White House roof in 1979. The panels, which were intended to heat water, were removed after Ronald Reagan took office. With little fanfare, the George W. Bush administration installed the White House’s first active solar electric system in 2002. President Barack Obama installed another set of panels in 2014.

The Eiffel Tower

eiffel1

Two wind turbines have been successfully installed on the Eiffel Tower to offset some of the structure’s energy use, are expected to produce 10,000 kWh annually. This will offset the power used by commercial activities on the tower’s first floor. The project is part of a larger efficiency upgrade that also includes LED lighting and rooftop solar panels on a visitor pavilion.

Vatican City

vatican solar
Solar Panels were installed on the roof of the 6,300-seat Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican in 2008. During his papacy, Benedict XVI made calls for greater environmental protection, and his successor, Pope Francis, has acknowledged manmade climate change and lamented a “culture of waste.”

London’s Tower Bridge

tower bridge led
In 2012, London upgraded the lights on its iconic Tower Bridge to more energy-efficient LEDs. “The spectacular view of Tower Bridge from my office in City Hall is one of my favorites in London,” London Mayor Boris Johnson said in a 2011 statement announcing the project. “It’s fantastic to now be able to crack on with this work to make it even better, brighter and greener and at no cost to the taxpayer.”

The Empire State Building

empire state building
New York City’s Empire State Building underwent a significant renovation in 2009 that included retrofitting the skyscraper to be more energy efficient. It received LEED Gold certification in 2011, making it the tallest LEED-certified building in the United States. The building’s retrofit reduced energy consumption by an estimated 38 percent, and put it in the top 25 percent of the most energy-efficient U.S. office buildings.

Berlin’s Reichstag Building
reichstag
Built in the late nineteenth century, the home of Germany’s parliament was damaged in a 1933 fire and by allied bombing during World War II. It fell into disuse after the war, but a rebuilding was completed in 1999 and it once again hosts the legislature of a unified Germany.

Along with a glass dome that lets in natural light, the building has a biofuel-powered combined heat and power system that produces about 80 percent of the building’s electricity and 90 percent of its heat. The building also has photovoltaic solar panels on the roof and low-flow water fixtures.

George Washington Bridge

george washington bridge lights
In 2009, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey finished upgrading the George Washington Bridge’s light “necklace” to energy efficient LEDs. The Port Authority estimated that the upgrade would cut 260,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Sydney Opera House

sydney opera house
The Sydney Opera House has implemented several steps to improve the facility’s sustainability, including more efficient air conditioners and lighting, along with a cooling system that uses seawater and saves millions of gallons of drinking water annually.

 

Could Gasification Save the Environment?

As the population grows, so will our need for waste management. The current situation in the US alone may be surprising to most people. Americans generate 250 million tons of garbage a year, and some reports show over 400 million tons and only about 1/10th of all solid garbage in the U.S. gets recycled. These numbers combined with agricultural waste and other industry waste leaves the U.S. with a staggering number. This data lead many companies, including Waste to Energy Systems, to develop alternative energy systems to begin chipping away at the world’s environmental issues. A recent online article discusses how gasification can play a role in turning around these issues.

From “Gasification of MSW may save Mother Earth” published on www.wastedive.com
Gasification and Landfills

(Above Image): Gasification can greatly reduce landfill capacities.

To keep up with the amount of trash, hundreds of municipalities request permits to expand their landfill capacities. Geologist Walter Leise recently described expansion initiatives as building a mountain of trash on top of another mountain of trash, offering a vivid description of the concept. As landfills get bigger and expansions become more controversial, do officials have a better option for the disposal of municipal solid waste?

WSI Management seems to think so. The Plant City, FL-based waste management company focuses on two objectives: the need for environmentally safe and economically sound management of municipal solid waste, and the quest for clean, renewable energy. WSI Management’s Vice President Matt Linda explained to Waste Dive that the company does not look to dispose of solid waste through plasma technology, or anaerobic digestion, or incineration. Instead, the company has mapped an “intellectual blueprint” to turn MSW into fuel cubes and bioplanks through gasification.

According to a report published by the Gasification Technologies Council (GTC), gasification combines carbon-based materials in MSW (known as feedstocks) with oxygen to break them down into a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, while removing pollutants. This process leaves clean, “synthesis gas” that can be converted into usable energy or products.

Despite common belief, the process of gasification is not the same as incineration. GTC defines incineration as using MSW as a fuel, “burning it with high volumes of air to form carbon dioxide and heat.” Gasification uses the MSW as a feedstock to create syngas, which is then turned into “higher valuable commercial products” instead of just heat and electricity.

“Instead of paying to dispose of and manage waste for years in a landfill, using it as a feedstock for gasification reduces disposal costs and landfill space, and converts those wastes to electricity and fuels,” the report states. Linda notes that the use of such gasification systems can solve disputes over landfill expansions and how to properly dispose of waste.

Keystone Landfill in Pennsylvania is permitted for 7,200 tons [of MSW] a day. 7,200 tons a day that’s going into Mother Earth,” Linda says. “And now because of the expansion permits, the residents don’t want the permit and they’re up in arms. There’s another landfill expansion in Ontario, NY. You’ve got Saugus, MASuacon Township in PA … Prehistoric landfills don’t exist anymore and incineration just spews material into the atmosphere, which is not good for anyone. There are technologies out there that could fix all of these boo-boos, and WSI [technology] just happens to be one of many.”

Gasification will continue to be a growing source of responsible waste disposal for both waste management companies and municipalities to consider. “It’s good for the industry, good for taxpayers, and supports this Government’s long-term plan for a stronger economy,” said Maude.

 

 

 

Part 2: Renewable Energy Enters the Limelight in Upcoming Presidential Campaign

A continuation of the Guardian’s article “Is Hillary Clinton’s ambitious solar energy goal for the US workable?”. We pick up again in the article with the second goal in the plan.

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Speaking to reporters on Monday, Clinton noted that further federal investment would be needed to incentivise the sector’s push to 33%. In a fact sheet, the campaign flagged the resuscitation of tax credits and some innovation and regulatory incentives.

“That [the return of tax credits] is hardly a sure thing, given that at least one chamber of Congress will inevitably be Republican controlled during at least the first two years of any new president’s term,” said Zindler.

People in the US may care less about climate change than they do about cost
Jürgen Weiss, Brattle Group consultancy Jürgen Weiss, head of climate change at the Brattle Group consultancy, said incentives were important as the industry remained relatively tiny, with low public awareness. A large percentage of costs for installers of residential solar are wrapped up in selling the technology to a sceptical public who have relatively low electricity costs and little concern for climate change. “The big part is convincing people to sign up in the first place. People in the US may care less about climate change than they do about cost,” he said.

Although the technology, regulatory and labour costs are roughly similar, the price of installing residential solar in Germany (where high electricity costs, strong public acceptance and large government incentives have driven a huge push to solar) is around $1.50 (£1) per watt cheaper than in the US. Even if half of Clinton’s target of 140GW of solar by 2021 were to come from residential (as opposed to utility) solar panels, that equates to a cost difference of more than $100bn, mostly spent on advertising and sales.

John Reilly, an energy economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the targets would be a challenge “in terms of providing incentives to build that much”.

Weiss said: “I do think those costs will come down as the market matures and people get more informed.” The danger, he said, was providing too much tax-payer funded incentive early on. In Germany and the UK, the solar industry has come under political pressure for being too successful when subsidies were high and now suffers from accusations of being a ‘subsidy junky’.

It’s important to clear up some ambiguity in the Clinton rhetoric. From her renewables campaign video, “a 10-year goal of generating enough renewable energy to power every single home in America” does not mean every home is going to have its own clean energy supply. The residential sector uses roughly a third of the total electricity generated. So a 33% renewable goal means the country will be generating this much clean energy, but not all of it will end up in homes.

But factories and office buildings don’t vote and the promise, as my colleague Suzanne Goldenberg points out, allows Clinton to sound like she’s liberating bill payers from utilities. It is also clear that Clinton’s focus on solar (as opposed to wind) is aimed at the voting bill payer. Solar even garners support among some Republicans because of the freedom it offers from regulation and bills.

The Department of Energy has found that wind energy can affordably reach 20% of electricity generation by 2030. And, under Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts it will be the biggest contributor of new renewable capacity throughout the 2020s.

As part of her announcement, Clinton pledged to uphold the Obama administration’s heavily-opposed restrictions on the carbon emissions of power stations, which are expected to accelerate the already rapid shut-down of coal plants across the country. This capacity will mostly be taken up by cheap gas, but there will be space for renewables if they can compete.