How it Works: A City Powered by Waste

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If you’re a city dweller, your electricity was likely generated from natural gas, coal or nuclear power and then sent through power lines into your home. With clean energy on the rise, you may even receive power that stems from renewable energy sources, like wind and solar.

But, if the city you call home is Herten, Germany, you will soon be among 5,000 homes and businesses that benefit from energy created from waste wood. Or, in the not-too-distant future, your city could get energy from municipal solid waste… aka regular trash.

That’s right, trash. Lockheed Martin and Concord Blue are turning the world’s waste into power.
 

GATHERING WASTE FOR ENERGY

While all waste has energy content, not all trash is created equal. Depending on its composition, the energy from trash can range between 4,000 and 5,000 British Thermal Units (BTU) per pound. Some waste items, such as plastics, wood, paper and cardboard have a higher energy content than others, such as food waste. Glass, for example, has such a low energy content that it would be removed from the process.

And what is that process to turn every day trash into energy treasure? Waste is collected and recyclable materials are recovered. The residual, unrecyclable material is then put through a process called gasification. Gasification is where organic or fossil-fuel based carbonaceous materials are converted into a valuable synthetic gas. Using ceramic heat carrier balls – about ½ inch in diameter – waste is mixed and heated to over 400 degrees Celsius and converted directly into gaseous form.

This synthetic gas created is primarily made of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which can be used in an engine-generator to produce electricity for homes and businesses.

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THE BENEFITS OF WASTE-TO-ENERGY TECHNOLOGY

Using Lockheed Martin and Concord Blue’s bioenergy solutions reduces landfill waste and generates clean power. In addition to results that are well below EPA and European emission standards, gasification also limits other harmful pollutants such as acid gases (sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides) as well as dioxins and furans which cause human health issues from exposure.

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Compared to landfilling, gasification to turn waste into energy produces five to ten times less CO2 emissions equivalents. Also, those ceramic heat carrier balls used in the gasification process can be re-heated, re-circulated and re-used again and again for even greater environmental savings.

For the bioenergy project in Herten, Germany, the waste source is biomass from forest cleaning, parks, and other sources of clean wood waste. For projects in the near future, the input material will more likely come from the trash in you’d find in neighborhood curbside receptacles or from commercial and industrial waste …. or maybe a combination of both.


 

MEET OUR enerGENIUS:
MAGGIE GUTIERREZ, CHIEF ENGINEER, BIOENERGY

“It’s not often that you can work on a project that solves three important problems at once – what to do with the increasing volume of waste that the world is generating, how to generate more power from renewable sources, and how to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. 

That’s exactly what BioEnergy, or waste-to-energy, does.  It reduces the volume of waste going to landfills and converts the waste to energy with less greenhouse gas emissions than landfilling and traditional fossil fuel-based power plants.  That is why I’m very proud to be working in BioEnergy.”

Learn more about Maggie and our EnerGENIUS team.

 



WHAT'S NEXT

Lockheed Martin is committed to walk the talk by building our own waste-to-energy facility in collaboration with Concord Blue. This summer, our Owego, New York facility will be powered by wood waste and transition to other waste sources as time goes on. As waste-to-energy technologies increase in demand, one day soon your trash could also power for your home!