Jul 25 2015

New Technology Revolutionizing Old Habits: Biogas and Renewable Energy

Published by under Student blog entries

In this class we have mainly focused on the ability to conserve and harness energy from renewable sources that have previously been untapped (at least on a large scale). In most cases, this includes things like wind energy, salinity gradients, oceanic currents, etc., i.e. natural phenomena that we should then be able to extract energy from in a continuous, renewable manner. However, I recently came across a process that takes one of man’s most proliferate productions (waste) and uses new technology to harness and use its energy. Biogas is essentially the byproduct gas that occurs when organic material breaks down. This is very closely the process that has developed natural gas deposits in the Earth’s crust that we now harvest and use to create power or heat homes. However, this process also occurs in the densely packed landfills that are increasingly covering Earth. For years scientists have known about this gas, and for years they have developed ventilation systems that simply filter the byproduct into the atmosphere or even burn it off upon removal. This is highly wasteful, because this biogas can be easily converted and seamlessly used to replace natural gas. At the world’s largest landfill in Guatapara, Brasil, GE engines are now processing and converting this gas into electricity capable of powering up to 35,000 homes (GE).

One of the more interesting uses of this technology is how companies plan to make themselves a closed-loop energy system. In Dekalb County, Georgia, USA, the entire waste management fleet runs on renewable natural gas, which is being replaced by landfill natural gas generated from their own landfill. They can essentially power their entire operation from the trash that they collect (USDOE). This type of closed look, self sustaining energy platform has enormous potential, as does biogas in general. This proves that we do not always have to come up with grand new schemes to find renewable energy, but can employ new technologies into old routines to have an enormous impact.

 

Resources

 

General Electric. (2015). “Invention Factory: How Will We Power The Planet?” Video. Accessed July 22, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.geglobalresearch.com/innovation/invention-factory-how-will-we-power-the-planet

United States Department of Energy. (2013). “Dekalb County Turns Trash to Gas.” Accessed July 23, 2015. Retrieved from http://www.afdc.energy.gov/case/1567.

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