Waste to electricity is viable – efficient and economical – using a unique combination of new generation alkaline fuel cells with plasma gasification and other existing proven technologies. A new British venture, Waste2Tricity, has been launched to bring the cutting-edge technology to market, with the aim of becoming the most efficient converter of municipal solid waste (MSW) into electricity.
“Our system will have significant environmental and cost benefits over other methods of electricity generation,” says Lord Moonie (Dr. Lewis Moonie), chairman elect of Waste2Tricity. “It has the potential to play a major role in the reduction of waste going to landfill, and provide local authorities with a revenue stream, as well as being a commercially viable proposition.”
The conversion of MSW into power has not yet been adopted on a wide scale because of the low efficiency, fears over emissions and waste from incineration or from existing gasification systems. Waste2Tricity will utilise new generation fuel cells that will increase the net output of electricity by a minimum of 60% over an internal combustion engine generation system or by 130% over a steam turbine system. Waste2Tricity estimates that the cost of generating electricity can be less than 3p per KWh (at today’s prices).
The Waste2Tricity methodology has significant environmental benefits:
• Existing landfill waste streams can be diverted in order to produce clean electricity.
• With less landfill, the future emission of undesirable greenhouse gases such as methane can be much reduced from that source.
• It is potentially a more efficient form of electricity generation in terms of reducing carbon emissions when compared to existing coal-fired, most renewable or other waste-to-electricity models such as incineration. A plasma gasification plant using new generation fuel cells will not cause a net increase in atmospheric CO2 as it bypasses the highly potent methane phase of the natural carbon cycle.
• In contrast to incineration, the plasma gasification process emits fewer pollutant gases, and no fly ash or waste ash. Harmful particles, such as dioxins, are destroyed in the process.
• A by-product of the process is inert vitrified slag, which can be used as road-building aggregates, reducing demand for gravel extraction.
• The facilities can be built on existing landfill sites, reducing the likelihood of opposition to their construction, and can utilise existing infrastructure such as roads built for waste transport. Ideally this would also be close to electrical energy demand ‘sinks’ to minimise transmission losses via a centralised grid.
Rising quantities of waste - whether MSW, commercial and from industrial food production - currently present a number of problems in disposal. It is unpleasant and unhygienic and must be dealt with quickly; it may need to be transported long distances away from urban populations; and there are limited options for its disposal. Incineration is expensive and unpopular; and landfill space is rapidly running out. In addition, buried waste produces both CO2 and methane when it rots down and recycling processes themselves use energy without guaranteed revenue from the recovered materials. If, however, waste is diverted to electricity generation it potentially becomes feedstock for that process, providing income for local authorities instead of incurring costs for its disposal.
Generation by this system will also make a significant contribution to UK electricity supply, and in particular by increasing the supply of renewable energy. The UK is entering into a period of criticality for electrical energy supply, even at depressed levels of demand during a recession. With 35% of baseload generation capacity coming off line before 2015, due to emissions regulations and nuclear de-commissioning, there is a real prospect of wholesale price hardening to fund reinvestment in the grid and new power stations. Added to these supply side drivers, there is now the offer of double Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) and the prospect of Feed in Tariffs (FITs) up to 5Mw capacity now enshrined in the Energy Act.
Around 2,100 kWh of electricity can be generated from every tonne of waste currently sent to landfill, helping eliminate the shortfall. Of approximately 35-40 million tonnes of biomass sent to landfill each year, Waste2Tricity believes it could initially process around 20%. By using waste with a short-cycle biogenic composition, electricity generated by the Waste2Tricity process will be eligible for ROCs, under legislation effective from April 2009, helping electricity suppliers meet their renewable targets.
Waste2Tricity will deploy advanced alkaline fuel cell technology, which will have the highest conversion efficiency of hydrogen to electricity, being greater than 50%. They are also designed to be of low-cost construction, with 90% of all components being made from standard engineering plastic, and are low cost to maintain.
The company’s initial target is to build a 50 000 tonne pilot plant that will integrate the available technologies in two stages. Stage One will use feedstock preparation, gasification via plasma arc to produce syngas, heat recovery, internal combustion engine (ICE) and power conversion technology. At Stage Two, hydrogen cleaning and alkaline fuel cells will be substituted for the ICE, greatly increasing the efficiency of the system. On successful implementation of the pilot plant, the system can be replicated and has global potential.
Waste2Tricity has a management team with considerable experience in related fields. Chairman elect, Lord Moonie, served as MP for Kirkcaldy from 1987-2005 and was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence, responsible for science and technology. He was made a Life Peer in 2005 and also now acts as a consultant to other businesses. Peter Jones, OBE, was a director of waste management company, BIFFA Limited for 20 years, and is now a well-known public commentator on waste issues, as well as a member of various advisory bodies created by Defra, BERR and the Mayor of London. Other members of the board include Terry Walsh, Tim Yeo, M.P and Adam White. Lead consultant to the company is Howard White, who has specific experience in alkaline fuel cells and in establishing start-up technology companies.
Note to Editors
Waste2Tricity is a new British venture established to make waste-to-energy viable, efficient and economical - by implementing a unique combination of new generation alkaline fuel cells with plasma gasification and other existing proven technologies. The system will therefore have significant environmental and cost benefits over other methods of electricity generation from Municipal Solid Waste. For more information, visit Waste2Tricity at http://waste2tricity.com
DATE: 16.01.09 REF: 09-007
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