San Francisco, US: The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Pacific Southwest Region launched an online ‘waste to biogas mapping tool’ to support the use of organic waste for energy projects. The mapping tool is available at www.epa.gov/region9/biogas.
“This innovative mapping tool, the first of its kind in the nation, helps restaurants, hotels and other food waste generators to connect with large energy producers,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Harvesting this energy prevents waste from ending up in landfills or clogging sewer lines.”
The tool helps users create an interactive map, which links food and other biodegradable waste sources with facilities such as wastewater treatment plants that can enhance energy production with their existing infrastructure. Wastewater treatment plants and some dairies manage waste with anaerobic digesters, which produce methane-rich biogas as a natural byproduct.
By adding food scraps or fats, oils, and grease to an anaerobic digester, facilities can increase biogas production to make money while providing a renewable energy source, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These business and environmental opportunities may present a largely unrealised potential.
The tool is designed for decision-makers with technical expertise in the fields of waste management, wastewater treatment, and renewable energy. This includes businesses, state and local governments, and non-profits. The tool allows users to determine the types of facilities in their area, where clusters are located, and the distance between a waste producer and an anaerobic digester. The tool also functions in reverse – allowing generators of organic waste to find partner facilities that will accept it.
It is pertinent to mention here that a study performed by the Northern California Power Agency in 2008 had determined that agricultural, wastewater and food processing wastes could be digested to obtain 453 megawatts of energy – enough to run a utility-scale power plant while also preventing 3.7 million dry tons of organic material from ending up in a landfill. This use of biogas to displace natural gas would have a climate change abatement potential equal to taking approximately 160,000 cars off the road.