New Cost-Efficient Method To Assess Renewable Energy Potential Of Waste

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A new approach has been developed by Cranfield University for calculating the renewable energy potential of waste products prior to incineration process. The new method is expected to cut down time and money for the energy and waste industries.

Image: Ari Herzog (CC BY-NC)

Under the UK Government’s Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) scheme, electricity suppliers are required to demonstrate the biomass content or fraction of mixed fuels, and incentives are offered to electricity suppliers for sourcing an increasing proportion of the electricity from renewable sources.

The current process for calculating the content of renewable energy in waste involves manual segregation of waste into individual components which is a time-consuming activity and carries issues regarding labour costs, as well as health and safety concerns. It may also involve analysis of the flue gas using specialist equipment for carbon dating, which is costly and can only be calculated retrospectively.

The new method involves use of image and microwave analysis tools to determine accurately the composition of a mixed waste material and amount of renewable energy generation from each individual component in the waste stream.

Dr Stuart Wagland, Lecturer in renewable energy from waste at Cranfield, commented: “The system enables greater operator control over the fuels, allowing for blending to optimise the biogenic (renewable) content and the overall calorific value, or energy released on combustion.”

Apart from saving time and money, the new approach will enable energy suppliers to predict the accurate amount of biogenic material present in the waste. Biogenic material consists of waste made up of materials produced by living organisms or biological processes such as paper, certain textiles, and food waste.

This research has attracted the interest of private companies and work is being planned in collaboration with National Physical Laboratory to further develop tools and test them with a number of feedstocks in a range of waste handling facilities.

According to some estimates, around 200 million tonnes of waste is produced in UK every year which is capable of producing 4% of the total UK’s electricity and water needs.

New Method Could Help More Efficient Use Of Waste

Domestic waste can become a major source of energy if the conversion processes are made more ‘environmental-friendly’, that is, engineered and modified in such a way that the net energy content is increased while the potential of carbon emissions decreases (the emission intensity of waste-to-power process is reduced). Modifications may include further treatment of waste before being turned into fuel pellets or using microbial action to modify the waste’s properties to reduce its final carbon footprint.

The views presented in the above article are the author’s personal views only

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Mridul Chadha

Mridul currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.

Mridul Chadha has 425 posts and counting. See all posts by Mridul Chadha