The world is confronted with a three-pronged challenge: Landfills are brimming, more energy is needed for a growing population and pollution is worsening by the day.
The numbers are staggering and startling:
Global waste could increase to 6 million daily tons by 2025, from just 3.5 million tons in 2010, according to the World Bank.
At the same time, the demand for energy will increase by about 56 percent from 2010 to 2040, with the highest demand in developing countries, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Bioenergy technology—or projects that can convert the world's waste into energy—is a critical piece to solving these challenges.
Lockheed Martin, one of the few companies on the forefront of bioenergy advancements, is poised to take the technology to the next level.
ALL-IN-ONE BIOENERGY PLANT
In partnership with Concord Blue, Lockheed Martin will soon commission a 250-kilowatt bioenergy system housed at its own facility in Owego, New York, just south of Syracuse.
"We believe bioenergy solutions are ready to take off. The global energy environment has long demanded a solution, and our technology and advanced manufacturing expertise is now mature enough to make bioenergy a reality," said Frank Armijo, vice president of Lockheed Martin Energy.
"To demonstrate our commitment, we're now completing a bioenergy plant at our own Lockheed Martin facility to showcase how these projects can decrease waste, generate power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions all at once."
The facility, set to come online this summer, will process 3,650 tons of waste per year into electricity to power the entire Lockheed Martin campus.
"When we first launched our partnership with Concord Blue, we knew that with their advanced technology and our engineering and integration expertise, we could change the bioenergy industry," said Mo Vargas, director of bioenergy at Lockheed Martin Energy. "We also saw immediate opportunities within our own business to implement a waste-to-energy plant that would reduce our energy costs and carbon footprint."
BIOMASS PLANT BRINGS NEW ENERGY SOURCE
Vargas explained the time was optimal to expand Owego from a biomass plant, which converts wood chips from locally harvested trees into energy, into a more advanced waste-to-energy plant. In addition to reducing more traditional landfill waste, the evolution of the plant will also support local businesses and sustain area jobs.
Ted Michaels, president of the Energy Recovery Council, said "the potential for the recovery of energy from waste in the United States is significant given that more than 60 percent of our waste is still being landfilled."
In addition to the Owego facility, Lockheed Martin and Concord Blue also recently be-gan construction on a bioenergy plant in Herten, Germany. The facility's 5 megawatts of energy output is enough to power about 5,000 homes and businesses. To create its power, the plant will process 50,000 tons of raw waste per year, a positive step for Eu-ropean sustainability efforts.
"We need to decrease our energy dependence and to shift to a competitive, low-carbon economy," said Dominique Ristori, director general for energy at the European Com-mission. "Innovation and new technologies are part of the solution in order to stay com-petitive, propose affordable energy for consumers and companies, and promote security of energy supply."
BIOMASS PLANT BRINGS NEW ENERGY SOURCE
Most solid waste can be converted into energy. Some waste materials—wood, plastic, cardboard and paper—contain a greater amount of energy and are ideal for conversion. Glass and metals, which contain low numbers of BTUs (British thermal units), are removed from the waste stream to be recycled. Unrecyclable materials continue into the bioenergy waste stream for conversion.
Waste conversion happens two ways: through combustion of bio waste or through the alteration of waste into synthesis gas.
In the advanced gasification process, Concord Blue's Reformer technology transfers heat, which is better on the environment, rather than direct heat or incineration. The process occurs in separate reactors within a single tower, giving operators precise control.
Gasification is an eco-friendly alternative, as heat carrier balls are reusable. In addition, gasification occurs in an oxygen-free environment, which results in five to 10 times less emissions of carbon dioxide than landfilling.