Melbourne Landfill: Could Landfills Be The Power Stations Of The Future?
In 2018 – a Melbourne landfill would quite rightly not be regarded as the leading edge in environmental progress.
Landfills have had a really bad reputation and image for a number of years.
The recent ABC expose of the waste management industry certainly did not paint them in a great light. Landfills are usually regarded as the worst option for waste (excluding of course illegal dumping!) and somewhere we should reduce rubbish truck visits.
In today’s blog – we want to cover the latest innovations in electricity generation from landfills and ask – could a Melbourne landfill one day be seen as a renewable energy power station for the city?
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Could a Melbourne landfill actually end up being good for the environment – and powering our homes?
Whilst a Melbourne landfill would not find too many fans at the moment because it emits methane and other green house gases – perhaps we are looking at it in the wrong way.
Landfills – if managed correctly could offer significant “renewable” energy and decrease the need for fossil fuels.
As we all know – landfills smell. The reason they small is why they also could be very useful for the environment.
When food, and any other waste decomposes it emits greenhouse gases such as methane.
If we are smart – we should increase the already existing usage of this gas to create electricity. See our blog on green waste disposal.
How we can use landfill gas to create electricity.
Now for a bit of science:
“Landfill gas (LFG) is generated through the degradation of municipal solid waste (MSW) and other biodegradable waste, by microorganisms. Aerobic conditions, presence of oxygen, leads to predominately CO2 emissions. In anaerobic conditions, as is typical of landfills, methane and CO2 are produced in a ratio of 60:40. Methane (CH
4) is the important component of landfill gas as it has a calorific value of 33.95 MJ/Nm^3 which gives rise to energy generation benefits.”
The process gets interesting if the landfill produces enough gas to warrant electricity production.
The added benefit is the gas that is captured is methane – which is viewed as up to 23 times more negative as a green house gas than C02.
Where are we now in Australia
Quoting from the excellent website – theconversation.com.au :
“Around 130 landfills in Australia are capturing methane and using it to generate electricity. Based on installed power generation capacity and the amount of waste received, Australia’s largest landfills use 20-30% of the potential methane in waste for electricity generation.”
“Ravenhall in Melbourne processes 1.4 million tonnes of waste per year, and proposes to generate 8.8 megawatts (MW) of electricity by 2020. Roughly 461,000 tonnes of waste goes to Woodlawn in NSW, and in 2011 it generated 4MW of electrical power. Swanbank in Queensland receives 500,000 tonnes a year and generates 1.1MW.”
Whilst some companies are branding their landfills – as FuelCells and equivalent positives names. Of course -the Australian waste industry is not where it could be in 2018.
Landfills can produce huge damage through methane and other gases – so it really is a no brainer to capture that gas and use it for electricity generation when economical.
There are other possibilities for creating energy from waste such as in oxygen free tanks. We will cover that in a future blog.
For an overview of how a power station based on landfill emissions would actually work – see the short video below produced by Caterpillar – who commercially market the technology.
See our blog on how plastic gets into our drinking water.