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Trash to Treasure — Waste-to-Energy a Growing Industry

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? While that phrase has been around for ages, it has taken society a while to make it more applicable to industry. Industrial waste has long ended up… just waste (nothing like treasure at all). It has polluted our environments, damaged our health, killed countless people, and caused harm to other species, as well. We have known this for quite some time, but inventors, innovators, engineers, and other energy pioneers have finally started finding ways to turn that waste into treasure in recent years.

I think one last thing that really stood out to me when searching through GE’s annual reports data visualization was this emerging waste-to-energy sector. It’s not nearly as mature as the wind energy sector, or even the solar energy sector, but I think many of us in this field are watching it closely and expecting it to become more than a nominal player in the world of energy. (Heck, the Denver Zoo is even starting to power tuk-tuks with animal waste.)

GE & Waste to Energy

So, I noticed mention of waste to energy technologies and projects creeping into GE’s annual reports in the last few years or so when scrolling through the “Energy” and “Electricity” tags.

For example, in 2007, GE mentioned new “waste-conversion technologies that produce electricity or synthetic fuels.” A few years later, in 2010, GE wrote: “Whether generating electricity from landfill gases or methane produced from manure, GE’s Jenbacher engine can provide an efficient and cost-effective way from waste.” I hadn’t heard about this Jenbacher engine before, but it sounds like a sweet little “trash to treasure” technology.

ge Jenbacher engine

GE Jenbacher engine.

In GE’s last report, in 2011, aside from touting its wind, solar, natural gas, EV, and smart grid technologies, it again mentioned its organic-waste-loving engines: “We deliver innovation that the world needs: from an integrated wind, solar, and natural gas project, to smart grids that help utilities manage electricity demand, to gas engines that run on organic waste, to more accessible charging stations for electric vehicles.”

With billions of people on this planet, and who knows how many more popping onto it every day, we need to deal with our waste better than we have. I hope to hear much more about these waste-to-energy technologies in the coming years, and hope they become a bigger part of GE’s energy technology offerings. And I’m expecting this will all come about — as a recent Pike Research report noted, and I reported last week in a news roundup, the waste-to-energy market is growing fast and is expected to grow to $29.2 billion by 2022.

Image: Jenbacher engine courtesy GE

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Written By

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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