Waste to Energy to be Powered by Thermal Energy

As part of Scotland’s drive to get its energy from 100% renewable sources, authorities have granted planning permission to a new facility.

Owned and operated by Covanta Energy, the Airdrie North Facility will be constructed in Drumshangie, North Lanarkshire and will be the first of its kind in the region, according to an announcement made by the company.

It will generate 47MW and use 23MW of thermal energy for local district heating and chilling to support businesses in the area. The remaining 24MW will be sold back to the National Grid and provide power for around 80,000 households. The company says construction work will generate 400 jobs while the operation plant will create 60 jobs.

Managing director of the energy giant, Malcolm Chilton said that the project marks the first for Covanta in Scotland and will make up an important part of the region’s waste treatment and management as well as provide valuable renewable infrastructure. He added that the move was both cost-efficient and environmentally friendly as a solution to handling non-recyclable waste without sending it to landfill.

Construction is set to begin by fall next year. Operation is scheduled to begin in early 2015.

Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.

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One comment on “Waste to Energy to be Powered by Thermal Energy

I wonder how ‘green’ and sustainable this really is?

These incinerators cost a lot to build, and therefore require a regular supply of material to burn. This could well be a barrier to continuing to increase the recycling rate, and to keep materials in use again and again.

Many of the materials which are burned in these incinerators are biodegradable… paper, cardboard, plant/animal material, foodstuffs, wood… and these are easily composted and the carbon in them may then be sequestered to the land. Soils are a massive store of carbon, and composting plant matter is a great way to trap carbon removed from the atmosphere by plants and put it into the soil, where it can stay for a considerable length of time, especially in a ‘no-till’ agricultural method.

Additionally, some of the materials burned are plastics… oil-based, and therefore these incinerators are really fossil fuel burners, releasing fossil carbon to our overloaded atmosphere. Many plastics can be recycled and with a bit of effort, used for making other things, although the technology has a way to go before all plastics are 100% recyclable.

All incinerators have a considerable amount of ash to dispose of. This is generally landfilled. Some experiments were conducted to see if it could get used for roadbuilding (a green activity?) but there were problems, and I believe, in the UK, incinerator ash is not permitted to be used as a building material, although I’d have to research that to be 100% sure.

So, on the face of it, ‘energy from waste’ is a lovely concept, but look a little deeper and there are a lot of things which are not ‘clean techie’. The REAL clean technology is to adopt a zero waste policy. This does not include incineration, but does include anaerobic digestion with the gas fed into the grid, or liquified and used for vehicles, and the digestate composted and used on the land, and of course, increased materials recycling. Zero waste includes waste reduction by redesigning packaging to be recycled/reused more easily, waste minimisation, reuse schemes like deposits on bottles so they are brought back for refilling, etc etc.

John Cossham, York in Transition, York UK

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