Will Waste-to-Energy Technologies Cater to the Infinite Demand for Power and Relieve Finite Resources?

Waste-to-Energy Plant. blue sky with clouds. White power plant building

(Credit: Canva Pro)

by | Mar 13, 2023

Waste-to-Energy Plant. blue sky with clouds. White power plant building

(Credit: Canva Pro)

Significant increases in consumption and demand for power and an increasing emphasis on producing energy from renewable sources are anticipated to drive the global waste-to-energy market. Municipal solid waste burning in waste-to-energy facilities is a reliable and affordable substitute for coal power plants. Waste-to-energy has the ability to take the place of coal, which is predicted to offer endless possibilities to stakeholders.

Reducing the amount of waste we produce by using the three R’s – reduce, reuse, and recycle – is a good start. By following these three rules, communities can forgo using landfills and thus save on both money and land. One can help make the world a healthier place by not purchasing things one doesn’t need, reusing things multiple times, and then disposing of things that are no longer required at the proper recycling facilities.

Rapid urbanization, population growth, and industrial progress in developing nations are increasing the output of municipal solid waste. According to estimates, the world would produce 2.24 billion tons of solid garbage in 2020, or 0.79 kg of rubbish per person every day.

Annual production of waste is anticipated to rise by 73% from 2020 levels to 3.88 billion tons in 2050 due to growing urbanization and population expansion. For the development of sustainable and habitable cities, waste management is vital, yet it is still challenging in many developing countries and also cities.

Proper garbage management is expensive, sometimes taking up 20% to 50% of municipal budgets. Running this crucial municipal function effectively, sustainably, and with social support demands integrated systems. Municipal solid waste, however, has the potential to develop into a priceless resource as well as fuel for future urban sustainable energy mix with efficient MSW management. It also controls its damaging impacts on the environment and climate change.

An effective and environmentally friendly way to handle trash is through waste to energy technique, which generates heat that can generate power. These waste-to-energy facilities can cut down on trash by 95% to 96% whilst also keeping it out of landfills. These facilities provide a number of advantages and eliminate hazardous waste, including medical waste, which is likely to raise demand for waste-to-energy technologies.

Waste-to-energy technology has a number of benefits, including the ability to produce heat and power, manage the trash effectively, and stop the production of methane and other damaging greenhouse gases. Moreover, it has little impact on groundwater contamination and is efficient in recycling metal. It is predicted that all of these advantages would boost the global waste-to-energy market in the near future.

Waste to Energy Technologies can Replace Coal in Power Generation, Zero Hazardous Gas Emissions Advantage

Municipal solid waste burning in waste-to-energy facilities is a reliable and affordable substitute for coal power plants. When coal is burned to produce power, hazardous gases such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen chloride are released, along with trace amounts of mercury, lead, and cadmium. On average, waste-to-energy facilities can combust up to 300 million tons of rubbish every year, which is utilized to generate power. As a result, this lessens the demand placed on non-renewable energy sources like coal. Also, these plants stop the release of toxic substances like dioxin, which is predicted to present strong growth prospects in the near future.

The first thermal WtE technique, incineration, is considered the least preferred solution owing to the high emissions rates and high operating costs of incineration facilities. Instead, emphasis is being placed on some of the most cutting-edge waste-to-energy technologies, including Dendro liquid energy (DLE), Anaerobic digestion, Hydrothermal Carbonization (HTC), and others.

CHP Plants are Gaining Prominence as it Integrates Various Renewable Energy Sources

Incineration in a combined heat and power (CHP) plant is currently the most well-known WtE technique for processing municipal solid waste (MSW). In terms of the ability to accept waste and the amount of energy produced, CHP facilities can range greatly in size. In terms of energy output, the efficiency of this incineration process is generally in the range of 20–25% while running in CHP mode and up to 25–35% when producing solely electricity. The most advanced and widely used technique for converting WtE at the moment is CHP incineration. In spite of this, there are already a variety of technical configurations that can be employed for this purpose, and with further R&D, many more are expected to emerge as viable alternative solutions in the future.

The use of CHP leads to improved energy utilization, higher efficiency, dependability, and resilience as compared to conventional power production techniques. Additionally, CHP encourages greater integration of variable renewable energy sources and acts as a backbone for microgrids by providing round-the-clock resilience against prolonged grid disruptions. For processes and applications that are difficult to electrify, CHP offers low- or net-zero-carbon energy services. There are plenty of institutional and commercial opportunities for CHP. Furthermore, even as the infrastructure for natural gas decarbonizes and also zero-carbon and new renewable fuels hit the market, the emissions and efficiency benefits of employing CHP will persist. There is potential for R&D to enhance and include CHP systems, notably flexible CHP, that can serve the future grid and aid in achieving decarbonization goals.

DLE Technology to Hold Immense Promise due to its Higher Production Capability and Efficiency

It is anticipated that new waste-to-energy technologies would present a major potential for market participants in the near future. One such technology is Dendro Liquid Energy (DLE), which in itself is four times more efficient at producing electricity and it comes with the added advantages of causing no effluence issues at plant sites and no emission discharge.

Dendro liquid energy (DLE), a cutting-edge waste-to-energy system that processes waste biologically, is perhaps the most promising emerging technology today. In comparison to anaerobic digestion and other WtE options, DLE plants are considerably more efficient at producing energy since they run at moderate temperatures from 150°C to 250°C.

The high energy conversion rate of DLE, which is over 80%, and its almost zero emissions, which means that neither the byproduct nor the syngas includes any tar or other impure materials, are some of its key benefits. It is the ideal local solution for many municipalities owing to its low operational costs. The recent energy crisis has demonstrated that maintaining a certain level of independence is vital if we – or any other country – are to sustain challenging times, thus waste-to-energy engineering would then hopefully provide more access to DLE technology in the near future. For one thing, it’s a very lucrative market. Waste-to-energy technologies, such as DLE, offer possibilities for the generation of energy, which is something we need to be more independent in.

Innovations and Emerging Technologies to Pave Way for Market Growth in the Future

A market intelligence company anticipated that the global waste-to-energy market would grow at a CAGR of 6.1% from 2018 to 2026. This is due to the fact that waste-to-energy plays a significant part in the sustainable waste management chain.

A report by BETO (US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office) titled Biofuels and Bioproducts from Wet and Gaseous Waste Streams: Challenges and Opportunities was released in January 2017. The paper claims that waste-to-energy (WTE) projects would become more and more lucrative to investors. In the near future, organic waste would either continue to be disposed of in landfills or would be more efficiently diverted to composting or WTE uses. Local regulations in certain municipalities are directing diversion efforts in response to landfill capacity limitations and the price of landfill trash disposal. Wastes transferred to anaerobic digesters can also lead to higher biogas yields and a reduction in fugitive biogas emissions. Even though it’s common practice to generate power from landfill gas, this landfill gas’s value is only just beginning to be recognized.

Guest Author

Subhra Prasanta Das Woman with glasses, red lipstick, and reddish brown hair

(Credit: Subhra Prasanta Das)

Subhra Prasanta Das is a digital media enthusiast and senior content writer with Transparency Market Research, a Pune-based market intelligence providing company. She has more than 20 years of expertise spanning across various industries, from media to market research. She holds an MA in Mass Communication from the University of Leicester, a Diploma in Software Technology and a Certificate in Hardware and Network Engineering. In addition to her primary job functions, she has been recognized by The Prince’s Trust for her excellent interpersonal skills.


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