Bill to increase renewable energy use in Maryland advances

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A measure to increase Maryland’s use of renewable energy advanced in the state Senate Tuesday after senators approved changing the bill to eliminate trash incineration as eligible for subsidies like wind and solar energy.

The Senate voted 34-12 for the amendment before giving the bill preliminary approval. A vote could come later this week on the measure that would increase the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard from 25 percent by 2020 to 50 percent by 2030.

Supporters of ending subsidies for waste-to-energy in the “top tier” of renewable energy said it’s wrong to classify trash burning in the same way as wind and solar.

“This is a common sense amendment,” said Sen. Michael Hough, a Frederick County Republican who sponsored the amendment. “This doesn’t say you can’t have trash incineration. It doesn’t even regulate them. It just says we shouldn’t subsidize them.”

The provision was originally part of the bill, but division in the Senate Finance Committee led to its removal.

Opponents to the amendment say while waste-to-energy incineration does emit carbon dioxide, it’s not as bad a contributor to climate change as landfills.

“It is true that waste-to-energy does emit CO2,” said Sen. Malcolm Augustine, a Prince George’s County Democrat who said waste-to-energy facilities can become cleaner with better use of scrubbers. “It does emit some other dangerous things, but the fact of the matter is that this is about climate change, and the fact of the matter is that the comparison is between waste-to-energy and landfills, and the fact of the matter is that in the landfill, when it goes to the landfill, it is actually more detrimental to climate change.”

But Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat, said the issue isn’t about preferences of handling trash by burning or by landfills.

“The question is, as a policy decision, should we spend our money to underwrite these companies when we have other options,” Pinsky said. “Shouldn’t we use that money to have expansion of solar, of wind, of hydro? Where is the best investment for the state? So, I might agree with you of the science between those two. It doesn’t mean we have to invest our money behind them, and I would prefer to have that money lower the cost of solar and wind and expand truly clean energy.”

Green construction and worker safety

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is always working to increase construction practices that address health and safety hazards.

The NIOSH Construction Program works through every stage of development – from pre-design to design, construction, occupancy and eventual demolition, the safety of people in the area remains a top priority.

NIOSH is not the only group in the United States pushing for safer conditions for construction workers. While worksites have improved in the past, how things are built is under constant transformation.

In this case, switching to green, eco-friendly building designs have been both a good and bad thing for construction workers. While the general point is to ensure the health of people throughout the building’s life, some of the practices are new and not yet mastered.

Green positives

All construction can be a dangerous business. Just because the building is environmentally friendly doesn’t mean it’ll be safer to build from the label alone. Work has to be put into the project for everything to come out right with everyone’s well-being in mind. However, green buildings and construction can make sites safer for workers.

The NIOSH Office of Construction Safety and Health, along with the United States Green Building Council, has developed a concept called Prevention through Design, or PtD. This concept, explained in two webinars, covers the prevention of occupational injuries, illnesses, fatalities and exposures on the worksite. PtD is there to minimize risks during the design phase of buildings by changing equipment, tools, processes and anything else to make the job safer.

Through PtD, workers eliminate hazards as early as possible. This can easily be implemented through green construction, as everything to make the building green is decided upon during the design phase. The premises, structure, equipment, machinery, substances and other parts of construction all have to be taken into account for both reasons.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that green construction is “the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building’s lifecycle.” While also being considered as high performance and sustainable, green buildings are also meant to be better for durability, comfort and the economy.

Occupational and environmental health can benefit each other by working together. As of 2011, 71 percent of construction businesses claimed to use at least one piece of technology or practice that was green while over half reported being involved with energy and waste efficiency.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that about 100 construction workers are killed each year. Going off this figure, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) finds that 55 percent of those fatalities happen on the worksite rather than anywhere else. Construction is a dangerous job either way, but finding new innovations to make the work safer is worth trying out, which is one reason why green building continues to gain traction.

Green negatives

The Identification of Safety Risks for High-Performance Sustainable Construction Projects study looked into construction projects with the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification. LEED remains the largest program in America for certifying green buildings.

In the study, dozens of designers and contractors were interviewed, each with an average of 100 traditional construction jobs and about four LEED jobs. Out of the results, 12 LEED guidelines lead to an increase in safety risk compared to non-LEED.

A lot of the problems have to do with height coupled with unfamiliar, new technology. The high-risk tasks include constructing atria and installing solar panels. This has been attributed to the 24 percent increase in falls.

There are also more electrical currents near unstable soils and an increased use of heavy equipment on LEED projects. Even wastewater technologies have about 14 percent more exposure to harmful substances.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics also conducted the Occupational Employment Statistics, or OES, survey. Along with the O*NET green occupational categories, about 90 percent of the construction workforce is now employed in green-related industries. Again, the increased risk of falls is a big factor when dealing with solar or wind power, as well as skylights or atriums. They also found extra exposure to hazardous materials because of weatherization.

Some other hazards not previously considered were from cement, concrete, terrazzo and insulation exposure to silica, coal ash and nanomaterials. In addition to material hazards, injuries continued to happen in green worksites. While these are all important problems to consider, the situation doesn’t have to be like this.

Safety First

The executive director of the Center for Construction Research and Training, Peter Stafford, noted that “with proper layout of the worksite, recyclables can be sorted safely and efficiently. With properly scheduled breaks for hydration, a reflective roof doesn’t have to mean trips to the hospital. And with proper fall protection, solar panels can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels without risking workers’ lives.” Simply put, new technology brings new safety measures.

Construction can be a dangerous job, especially when negligence is involved.

While green construction has new problems to overcome, they aren’t much worse than the issues already presented, and they’re better during the long run.

New safety measures need to be implemented for these different processes, and proper training must be conducted. With knowledge and the correct tools, risks can be lowered for everyone’s peace of mind.

This Author

Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability writer and the editor of Conservation Folks.

West Virginia nears completion of first renewable energy facility of its kind in the nation

MARTINSBURG – The first renewable energy facility of its kind in the United States, Martinsburg’s own Entsorga, finishes final preparations as the facility prepares to begin taking its first loads of waste at the end of March.

The renewable energy facility has been an eight-year process for BioHiTech Global, Inc., a technology and services company that provides cost-effective and sustainable waste management solutions, and will be the first facility of its kind in the United States, mirroring a facility that has already had success in Europe.

“There are not many places where you can have that kind of closed story, but that’s what’s so cool about Martinsburg. West Virginia has had this bad reputation of throwing trash on the ground or burning and for a long time West Virginia took everyone else’s waste, but now West Virginia is the first to take the step to use their waste as a commodity. West Virginia is the first to take this step in the country,” Emily Dyson, director of science research and development for HiBioTech and project manager for Entsorga, said. “Before we can start the process, though, we have to be able to fill the bio oxidation hall so we’ll start taking waste by the end of the month and hope to be in full operation by the end of the spring. I’m very excited to see this completed.”

Dyson said that she began working on the project through the environmental permitting and land use permitting stage with the county, which she said then evolved into looking into design plans and moved into her managing the project.

“We are currently commissioning and making sure that all of the equipment is working,” Dyson said. “Any time that you have this much manufacturing equipment you’ve got to make sure that everything is built well. We had some very good contractors who did very well.”

Dyson explained that the beginning of the process starts in two large pits where the trucks hauling waste will back up to and dump in their load after having weighed the intake load on a large scale in front of the facility.

“Fast rolling doors, in a matter of three to five seconds, ensure that the whole building stays under negative pressure,” Dyson said. “All of the odor will stay in the building meaning when you’re standing near this you won’t smell trash. Meanwhile, under the grates at bottom of the dumping pits, are fans that start the biological process of breaking the waste down, or composting. There’s never a time that waste is just sitting, not being broken down.”

A large overhead crane and grapple will then reach into the pits and drop the waste into the first large hopper, which Dyson explained begins the first mechanical step of the mechanical biological process. Dyson said that the biology starts in the pits when air is moving through the waste.

“The facility is all automated so there is never human intervention with the waste,” Dyson said. “People won’t be in the bio oxidation area. We have two cranes and everything is done through sensors. At peak operation, 18 to 20 employees will work over two shifts; an electrician, mechanic, supervisors, control room operators and laborers.”

From the first hopper, Dyson explained that the waste drops into the first trammel — a large cylinder that is filled with holes — where waste will go up a conveyor belt. Large plastic and cardboard, or ‘overs’, will fall out into one pit, and small pieces of organic material, called ‘unders’, will then go into the bio oxidation hall.

“Here we make SRFs, which is an engineer specified fuel, and RDFs, which is not specified, but rather a waste that is dried out, pelletized and has no blend requirements,” Dyson explained. “Where most composting can take anywhere from three to six months, this facility will be able to create these composts in 10 to 14 days.”

Dyson said that sensors measure humidity and temperature and adjust those factors depending on how the piles of compost. She went on to explain that along the cranes there are sensors that identify when a pile is ready, and it sends a signal to the crane that allows it to pick up and move that pile to the next stage of the process from any where in that bio oxidation hall.

“This facility has a huge game change possibility for this community,” Dyson said. “They generate the waste that normally would go to a land fills, but now you’re taking trucks that normally would be driving 100 miles north potentially to landfills, those trucks are off the road cause they’re coming here. Then the fuel we make here gets sent to Argos, where it’s going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because we offset coal by 30 percent. In the same community where they generated the waste, they’re actually going to close the loop and make the air quality of where they live better just with the waste they generated.”

Dyson said that the design ensures that waste is continually being processed through the facility and being put out to be sold to operations like Argos or other cement facilities.

“The design is from Wilshire, England,” Dyson said. “We picked up the design and brought it here. The only difference is the room we have for commercial and industrial waste such as paper rolls, scraps of carpet and car fluff. It’s all really good feedstock fuel and burns very hot; that stuff can be added to the materials that have now been dried for 10 to 14 days.”

The combination of dried materials and mixed industrial materials comes off of the hopper and goes on conveyor belts that pulls off ‘finds’, such as glass and stones, that will go to the landfill and pulls out tin and aluminum that will go back into the recycling stream.

“If you have people who are not taking advantage of curbside recycling, we will be able to pull those recyclables out,” Dyson said. “We’re a benefit to the recycling in the community. People will be recycling whether they want to or not, they’ll be doing their part.”

The process ends with a variety of conveyor belts with air shakers that ensure small and large parts apart. The process will sort larger parts back through a second trammel that has smaller holes so that the materials are being circulated continuously until they are the right size to fall down, a measure that Dyson said is “redundancy in the process so that we have a high quality fuel.”

“What’s impressive are the pipes and flexible hoses above these belts that ensure that every conveyor is closed,” Dyson said. “A huge vacuum system sucks up particulates so if the doors open there isn’t stuff blowing around. The particulates are housed in a bag house that has 500 bags, and every now and then it shakes and all of the dust falls down and can be cleaned out. It makes it so that there are no real emissions out of this plant.”

Dyson said that the large bio filter behind the building makes it so that there is no trash smell as well. She explained that all of the air is “pulled out and sucked back in and circulated through the bio filter so that all that’s left is the mulch and moss smell.”

Despite the expansive work that the facility will be doing, according to Dyson, residents in the counties that Apple Valley Waste serves — Jefferson, Hardy, Morgan, and Berkley counties — will not see a change in the tipping fee that they pay for waste pickup regularly.

“There will be no change to the bill the home owner sees,” Dyson said. “The little white house on the corner will pay the same fee they always have, its just going here to Entsorga instead of the landfill.”

Dyson said that the biggest impact from the facility is the 80 percent landfill diversion. Dyson explained that landfills wouldn’t be putting off the same amount of methane gas because of the work that the facility will be doing.

“We are making it an impressive facility that is a game changer in waste because there has not been a whole lot of change in how we deal with waste in so many years, but this facility will make a huge difference,” Dyson said. “And yes, we have one in permitting in New York just south of Albany. We make it so that landfills can last upwards of 50 years longer. There’s still a need for landfills but we are putting less into them.”

For more information on the cleanup efforts being made in Berkeley County and the Entsorga facility call the Solid Waste Authority office at (304) 367- 9370 or visit their website at www.berkeleycountyrecycling.com.

Mercer Green Fest set for Saturday at Rider

About 100 vendors of everything “green” – from electric cars to solar panels – will display their wares at the 13th annual Mercer Green Fest, scheduled for March 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Rider University.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at Rider University’s Student Recreation Center in Lawrenceville. It is being sponsored by the Mercer County Sustainability Coalition, which is made up of the “green teams” from several Mercer County towns.

The Mercer Green Fest, formerly known as the Living Local Expo, got its start as a local event in Lawrence Township organized by Sustainable Lawrence. The goal is to bring together a variety of “green” resources for visitors to sample.

Since its beginnings in one room at The Lawrenceville School, the green fair has moved from Lawrence High School to the New Jersey National Guard Armory on Eggerts Crossing Road and now to Rider University – all in order to accommodate the growing number of exhibitors and visitors.

Bringing the community together to explore solutions and learn how to live more sustainably – and to do what they can to protect the environment – is very important, said Pam Mount, one of the event organizers.

“It will give the people some exposure to all the resources that are around – the solar panel companies and nonprofit groups,” Mount said.

About 100 eco-friendly businesses and organizations will offer information and incentives to help Mercer County residents to both “go green” and “save green” – from solar panel companies to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

Visitors can learn about energy efficiency, food waste recycling programs, health and exercise and wellness, plus walking and bicycle trails. Outside in the parking lot, they can view the largest electric car display in New Jersey, Mount said.

There will be a farmers market with an assortment of locally produced fruits, vegetables, cheeses, honey, flowers and artisan food products. Terhune Orchard will be available all day for purchases.

Science fair projects and robotic projects from area schools will be on display, including the Green Machine Girl Scouts Robotics Team and WAGS Robotics.

HomeFront, the Greater Mercer Public Health Partnership, Capital Health Systems, Food and Water Watch, Cherry Grove Farm, the Lawrence Hopewell Trail and the Lawrence Nature Center will have displays at the event.

Artists who take “found objects” and recycle and re-use those bits and pieces to create sculpture, jewelry and artwork will show off their creations. Demonstrations to show visitors how to make their own recycled – or “upcycled” – art will be held throughout the day.

And since the Mercer Green Fest is a family-friendly event, there will be entertainment for children – from singer/songwriter Miss Amy to the Eyes of the Wild traveling zoo and, of course, Solar Man. He will show children how energy is generated by the sun through solar panels.

 

Green business heroes

 

Six Patchogue businesses received the local ‘Oscar’ of environmental accolades — a Green Business Award — Monday night at the village board meeting. Blue Point Brewery, Arooga’s, Blum’s, BrickHouse Brewery, James Joyce Pub Restaurant, and Fire Island National Seashore were the recipients.

Its idea came from a newcomer to Patchogue.

Well, sort of. 

Nick Rosenberg, environmental health and safety manager for the newly expanded Blue Point Brewery on West Main Street, came across a New York State green business program that was too broad, but that might be refined. As a member of the Protecting the Environment in Patchogue committee, he pitched the idea and the PEP committee helped develop it. Patchogue is believed to be the first municipality on Long Island to initiate this type of award.

“I thought it would work better if we concentrated on the businesses locally in the village that are taking green initiatives,” said Rosenberg, who worked with the PEP creator, trustee Joseph Keyes, for two years. “Blue Point built a brand-new facility with efficiency in mind. So it’s recovering water for use in multiple stages of the brewery process. We have plans to install solar on our new property this year. The grain we use for the brewing process and husks, all that gets sent off and mixed in for cattle feed to farms.” 

As for the restaurant side, in addressing utensils and takeout, “right now, the initiatives are going to the brewery side until we can get the restaurant up and running,” Rosenberg said. “We are planning ahead for a lot of those things, coastal and environmental in mind, so we have plans for ecofriendly initiatives.” 

The businesses will receive decals to publicize their commitment. Keyes said they can also be posted as green businesses on the Patchogue Village website and can use the village logo.

“We invited businesses to participate and sent out applications seven months ago,” Keyes said. “If the businesses qualified for certain points, hopefully it would trigger a mindset to further enhance environmental habits.” PEP was started in 2014 by Keyes; Patchogue Village banned the use of plastic bags, behind Southampton and East Hampton towns and villages, officially in September 2016.

A green business application was distributed; 10 applied, Keyes said. Six made the grade, scoring on recycling, energy-efficiency measures, sustainability training for employees and efforts to reduce single-use plastics and packaging.

BrickHouse Brewery was the first one to get the application in, Keyes said. BrickHouse opened in June 1996. 

“The biggest thing we did was the initiative with Brookhaven Town; our leftover grain goes to a rescue farm for goats and bovine animals,” said BrickHouse owner Tom Keegan. 

BrickHouse Brewery manager Maud Franklin said the restaurant stopped giving out plastic straws. “We have them if asked for, but we do not freely give them out,” Franklin said. “The Brew to Moo program with the town saves hundreds of pounds of grain a week from going into the landfill and we also have restaurant technologies. We recycle the oil we use for our fryers. A company monitors the oil; the used oil is collected as biodiesel oil for their trucks. Our boiler also collects condensate hot water to clean instead of using fresh water. And we research as much local products as we can for our beer process, so we only use Long Island hops. They use less fuel to get here. We’re the oldest operating brewer on Long Island, so if we take the lead, others will, too.”

Fire Island National Seashore park planner Kaetlyn Jackson said FINS has been addressing several buildings including the maintenance facility on West Avenue, two offices there, the ferry terminal, the headquarters on Laurel Street and at Watch Hill. “Our new facility at Watch Hill was built with green sustainable designs,” she said. “We have a green geothermal heating system to keep the rooms at a level temperature in winter and summer. We also have solar panels on that building as well. We are looking at a solar array at the Fire Island Ferry terminal over at the current parking lot and for locations for plug-ins for charging — that’s our goal. We have night-sky lighting, which focuses down instead of up. That’s the majority of what we put into our application. We have a native plant garden that supports native pollinators.”

In other village news:

•  BID executive director Dennis Smith reported that the owner of 8 West Main Street will transfer the 9,000-square-foot space into three units instead of renting to SMASH Ping Pong. Work at Fireman’s Memorial Park at the end of Rider Avenue will hopefully start early April. Construction for Shorefront Park may be six to 12 months away.

•  A change order was approved for L-C Construction to provide and install root barrier protection at Fireman’s Memorial Park for $8,650.

•  Don’t forget the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the saint’s day, March 17, that starts at Route 112 and proceeds to West Avenue. Paula Murphy is the grand marshal. The May the Road Rise to Meet Ye 5K begins at 11:55 a.m. The parade kicks off at noon sharp. Volunteers are still needed. 

•  If you see drug activity, call police at 631-852-NARC, not the village.

•  A Memorandum of Understanding was approved between the village and Cornell Cooperative Extension to provide Stormwater Management Program Education, Public Participation and Guidance for 2019-2020 for $27,628.75.

•  The 2018 LOSAP Program for Patchogue Ambulance was approved.

•  During the public comment period, several Beach Avenue residents registered complaints about an empty house with open windows, a house damaged by Sandy on property with a trailer for three years, a huge solar array and an alleged trucking business.

“The village will be actively reviewing previous approvals,” said village attorney Brian Egan. “Last night we heard from the east side of the street and no one on the west side. I am commissioning a full review on Beach Avenue and will do a thorough assessment of what’s legal and what’s not.”  

Renewable Resilience: How New Buildings Are Equipped for Clean Energy

TwitterLinkedInFacebookGoogle+Share

Commercial buildings are being designed with sustainability in mind

Managing the energy consumption of commercial buildings is critical to reducing the country’s carbon emissions. While it’s common to associate these emissions with transportation and industry, statistics have shown the subject is more complicated than eco-friendly cars and EPA regulations on companies.

As context, commercial buildings account for almost 20 percent of U.S. energy consumption and 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. More than that, inefficient processes and management waste nearly 30 percent of that energy use. The country is clearly in desperate need of a solution.

Fortunately, architects and design professionals have a diverse range of solutions to limit the impact of commercial buildings. They’ve started to adapt architecture to meet today’s standards of sustainability, innovating on outdated models and practices to incredible effect.

So what do these innovations look like? What should entrepreneurs and executives expect from commercial buildings in 2019 and beyond? Here’s what’s being done to make the country a cleaner, greener place to live.

Energy Storage Solutions

Business owners are often hesitant to integrate renewable solutions for fear of outages and performance issues. These problems would leave them vulnerable, and they feel far more comfortable with traditional sources of energy that aren’t as prone to failure. This thinking is rational to a certain degree.

Solar power had limited large-scale commercial viability for quite a long time, and the costs of installation and pressures of maintenance weren’t in its favor. The responsibilities of owning and operating panels were unattractive to those who relied on conventional sources of power. Things have changed since then.

New technology now allows organizations to transition to renewables while ensuring access to adequate power whenever they need it. Energy storage systems connect to the existing electrical infrastructure and save excess energy for later use. They accommodate wind and solar power, as well as cogeneration.

These storage systems account for some of the problems involved with renewable energy, making it more reliable and predictable. Concerning matters like grid resiliency, demand management, and energy savings, storage is one of the most promising solutions for those who feel uncertain about renewables.

Energy Management Systems

Specialized software like building energy management systems — otherwise known as BEMS — can continually monitor and analyze a structure’s energy use. After installation, the BEMS inform the building owner or manager on their energy expenditure in lighting, heating, cooling, and other areas.

In terms of implementation, a BEMS often connects to components already in the building. These components include the physical systems and sensors associated with elevators, fire-safety and security, as well as other existing infrastructure. Beyond these smaller details, two types of building software exist.

Building management systems software makes it simple to control various building components from a single application. Building automation systems software is similar but shifts the focus toward automating building processes and management. A BEMS can connect to one or both of these systems as needed.

As building owners or managers view their energy use with complete transparency, they’re able to improve and optimize their processes. Concerning its value for savings, a BEMS is indispensable. A study found that energy savings declined by as much as 8 percent every year without monitoring and maintenance.

On-Site Energy Generation

As far back as 2003, cities like Auburn, New York, have embraced the potential of clean energy. Its choice to install a geothermal system to heat and cool city hall was an enormous stride in the transition toward sustainability. More than that, the project was successful, leading to similar initiatives in the city.

At the time, the cost of geothermal systems on that scale was around $1 million, comparable to the price of conventional heating and cooling systems. Auburn’s investment helped to preserve the environment and reduce expenses, with expected savings of approximately $19,000 each year over the system’s lifetime.

On-site energy generation is possible and plausible, as proven by Auburn’s project. Beyond methods like geothermal systems, common strategies include photovoltaics, solar water heating and wind turbines. The use of biomass like wood, agricultural waste and similar products is also viable.

Other examples of on-site energy generation and net-zero energy buildings show the power of renewables. Through a performance-based design and build process, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory achieved its net-zero site energy goal. It used advanced heat recovery technologies and photovoltaic power, among other features, which enabled it to manage its energy consumption.

Cleaner Commercial Buildings

As the country continues its transition toward sustainability, commercial buildings will have to change and adapt. The systems and technologies detailed above are only several examples on an ever-expanding list of green energy solutions. Given time, these solutions will see greater adoption.

While progress is slow and somewhat troubled, maintaining a sense of optimism is important. It’s best to remain positive, comfortable in the knowledge that renewable energy is more accessible with each passing year.

Written by: Holly Welles, BOSS Contributor

Holly Welles is a real estate writer who covers the latest market trends in everything from residential to commercial spaces. She is the editor behind her own blog, The Estate Update, and curates more advice on Twitter.

TwitterLinkedInFacebookGoogle+Share

Los Angeles to Combine Food Waste, Biosolids for Massive Energy Project

Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts (LACSD) is tapping into existing infrastructure at its wastewater treatment plant to be able to process food waste and convert it to renewable power or transportation fuel. Organics will be processed at its Puente Hills materials recovery facility (MRF), where contaminants will be removed, and a slurry will be created, pumped into tanks and shipped to the plant for co-digestion with biosolids.

“After vetting the concept through early research and then a successful demo with Waste Management, bringing in about 60 tons per day (tpd) of food waste, we determined that there’s market need and that the system works. We then embarked on a full-scale commercialization program,” says Mark McDannel, division engineer at LACSD’s Energy Recovery Section.

For now, the system can process 165 tpd of source separated food waste and should be able to digest 300 to 550 tpd by 2020 (out of 4,000 tpd of food waste generated in Los Angeles County). The operation is expected to generate up to 1,440 standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM) of biogas by 2020.

“We decided not to build a new digester at our solid waste facilities because we already had infrastructure at our wastewater treatment plant and could forgo high capital costs,” says McDannel.

But there was more about this model that seemed to make sense. The existing anaerobic digestion system, which converts food waste into methane gas in three weeks, also addresses a material stability issue.

“One challenge with digesters dedicated to food waste is that the composition of those materials is always changing, while sludge remains stable. We can add up to 30 percent food waste on a solids-to-solids basis, and the mix will remain stable,” says McDannel.

Research found that twice the methane can be generated with a 30 percent food mix over processing pure biosolids.

Plans moving forward are to process food waste for haulers and drive the slurry to the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant (JWPCP). Or waste companies can process it themselves and ship it to the MRF to be moved on to the plant. While LACSD has talked to haulers looking for different ways to process organics, there are no long-term signed contracts yet.

For now, the districts are taking about 100 tons a day to the treatment plant from haulers under short-term contracts.

“We are negotiating for larger, longer-term contracts, but it’s difficult because of uncertainty around when SB 1383 rules [around organics diversion] will be finalized and enforced. Plus, the market is not mature yet,” explains McDannel.

LACSD will develop and own the energy project. The treatment plant will take digested gas for its electricity needs. LACSD will deliver excess power into the grid.

The phase one project will take 400 of the 1,400 SCFM of digester gas that the operation will ultimately generate. That 400 SCFM will produce about 2,500 gasoline gallon equivalents per day of compressed natural gas vehicle fuel. The remaining gas will make electricity.  

Phase 2, which would use additional gas, is currently being evaluated.

Renewable natural gases are high for now, and private developers are building projects fast. Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) and the low-carbon fuel standard help, but my personal take is supply will catch up to demand, and high prices are not here for the long term. But this is a 15- to 20-year project. So, we can look at electricity [which has low prices now] in addition to RNG,” says McDannel.

Los Angeles County Public Works is offering subsidies to haulers to take their organics to LACSD’s Puente Hills MRF for processing. To achieve aggressive waste diversion goals, the county promotes alternative technologies to divert from landfill and create renewable energy and beneficial products. 

“We are providing this subsidy to participating commercial waste haulers to allow them to offer the service at no additional cost in order to spur the marketplace and test new and innovative waste collection and recycling methods,” says Coby Skye, assistant deputy director for Los Angeles County Public Works.

“Leveraging the most efficient and cost-effective ways to collect and recycle food waste will help the county meet its landfill diversion targets as well as help businesses and the county comply with state law and regulations,” he says.

3M Headquarters To Operate 100% On Renewable Energy

When it comes to going green, 3M is going big.

The parent company of Top 40 supplier 3M/Promotional Markets (asi/91240) announced Thursday that its St. Paul, MN headquarters will operate 100% on renewable electricity, effective tomorrow – Friday, March 1. By 2050, the global tech and manufacturing corporation aims to have all of its facilities around the world fueled entirely by renewable energy. 3M has set an interim target to source at least 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2025.

The company was winning praise from environmentalists for its emphasis on getting more eco-friendly. “Seeing such a large manufacturer commit to ‘go all in’ on renewables to produce sustainable new products is an encouraging step forward,” said Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group, a non-profit that works with business and government leaders to address climate change. “Big brands like this can influence positive action from other companies and customers and accelerate the clean energy transition around the world.”

Currently, 3M sources about 30% of its total electricity from renewable sources. Since 2002, the supplier has decreased its greenhouse gas emissions by 68%, while also doubling revenue. As further evidence of its commitment to sustainability, 3M said Thursday that it’s joining RE100, a global leadership initiative led by The Climate Group and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), that brings together influential businesses committed to sourcing 100% renewable power for their worldwide operations. “We are continuing to step up our leadership toward a more sustainable future – in our own operations, and in solutions for our customers,” said 3M CEO Mike Roman.

In evolving into renewable energy at its 409-acre corporate headquarters, which is home to about 30 buildings/research labs and 12,000 employees, 3M became the largest company in Xcel Energy Inc’s service area across eight Western and Midwestern states to convert to 100% renewable electricity. Xcel will provide the majority of the power for 3M’s headquarters from wind farms located near Pipestone, MN. Additional electricity will come through wind projects that are part of Xcel’s Windsource program and solar sources.

“We applaud 3M’s leadership in making a bold commitment to 100% renewable energy. Xcel Energy is proud to partner with 3M, because we both share a drive to innovate and a commitment to reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment,’’ said Chris Clark, president of Xcel Energy-Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota.

In December, 3M announced an increased commitment to build sustainability into its pipeline, which produces thousands of products and technologies. Effectively, 3M is requiring that a Sustainability Value Commitment be included in all new products introduced beginning in 2019.

With estimated North American promotional product revenue of $93 million, 3M Promotional Markets ranks 18th on Counselor’s latest list of the largest suppliers in the industry.

KU Leuven scientists crack the code for affordable, eco-friendly hydrogen gas

Bioscience engineers at KU Leuven have created a solar panel that produces hydrogen gas from moisture in the air. After ten years of development, the panel can now produce 250 litres per day – a world record, according to the researchers. Twenty of these solar panels could provide electricity and heat for one family for an entire winter. 

Under a watery sun, Professor Johan Martens and his research team roll the solar panel onto the lawn in front of the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis at KU Leuven. The device looks like an ordinary solar panel. The engineers have attached a flask with water to the device so that we can see the hydrogen bubbles escape. A meter indicates the quantities. After a couple of seconds, the first bubbles begin to rise to the surface.

Hydrogen gas is an energy vector that can easily be stored and transported, and it can be converted at will into both electricity and heat. The gas doesn’t release any greenhouse gases or toxic substances, provided that you use clean energy to produce it. That’s what Professor Martens’s team has developed: a device that turns sunlight and water vapour into hydrogen gas in a sustainable way.

“It’s a unique combination of physics and chemistry. In the beginning, the efficiency was only 0.1 per cent, and barely any hydrogen molecules were formed. Today, you see them rising to the surface in bubbles. So that’s ten years of work – always making improvements, detecting problems. That’s how you get results.” 

A traditional solar panel converts between 18 to 20 per cent of the solar energy into electricity. If you then have to use that electric power to split the water into hydrogen gas and oxygen, you lose a lot of energy. The KU Leuven bioscience engineers solved this exact problem by designing a solar panel of 1.6 m² that converts 15 per cent of the sunlight straight into hydrogen gas. That’s a world record in the category of devices that don’t require precious metals or other expensive materials.

Hydrogen gas from renewable energy sources – green hydrogen gas – has been a promising prospect on the energy market for years, but the real breakthrough hasn’t happened yet. Hydrogen gas is considered to be expensive and difficult to produce and store. Today, most hydrogen gas is produced using oil and gas. ‘Grey’ hydrogen gas, in other words – not a big win for the climate or the environment. The KU Leuven researchers believe this is about to change. 

Last week, Toyota announced that it wants to produce hydrogen gas with a prototype designed by Johan Martens’s team in 2014. This device is a little screen (10 cm2) that the engineers will scale up to a large panel. 

In Leuven, they already have one of these large panels. On campus, we see the meter rise steadily on the device in front of us. The bubbles keep coming, despite the watery sun. “The panel produces around 250 litres per day over a full year. That’s a world record,” says KU Leuven researcher Jan Rongé. “Twenty of these panels produce enough heat and electricity to get through the winter in a thoroughly insulated house and still have power left. Add another twenty panels, and you can drive an electric car for an entire year.”

Of course, all this is still based on calculations. But soon, the researchers will start a pilot project to field-test the theory. 

In any case, a benefit of hydrogen gas is that it can replace fossil fuels. Around 80% of our energy comes from oil, gas, or coal. We need to replace these sources if we want to tackle global warming, says Jan Rongé.

However, hydrogen gas comes with risks of its own. Like most fuels, the gas is highly flammable. This poses a danger, especially in closed spaces. At the same time, it’s also a light gas, so when it escapes, it will rise up immediately instead of spreading over the ground. 

In any case, the new prototype of Johan Martens’s team is ready for field testing outside of the campus. For the first project, we’re driving to Oud-Heverlee, a rural town in Flemish Brabant. The house we visit is well insulated and gets most of its power from solar panels, a solar boiler, and a heat pump. It is not connected to the gas grid. It only uses power from the grid in the winter.

Soon, 20 hydrogen gas panels will be added to this mix. If all goes well, more panels will be installed on a piece of land in the street. This will allow the other 39 families in the street to benefit from the project as well. The hydrogen gas produced in the summer will be stored and converted into electricity and heat in the winter.

Hydrogen gas is easier to store than electricity. Buffering electricity requires batteries that are expensive and slowly lose voltage as well. Therefore, it’s not a good idea to buffer electricity from summer until winter. With hydrogen gas, it’s a different story. The hydrogen gas produced in the summer can be stored in an underground pressure vessel until winter. One family would need about 4 cubic metres of storage. That’s the size of a regular oil tank.

For Johan Martens, a test project like the one in Oud-Heverlee is what he and his team have been working towards for years. “We wanted to design something sustainable that is affordable and can be used practically anywhere. We’re using cheap raw materials and don’t need precious metals or other expensive components.”

The actual cost of the hydrogen gas panels is still unknown, as the mass production is yet to start. The researchers, however, say that it should be affordable. This invention could completely change the future of green energy. The emphasis will not so much be on large production units, but rather on the combination of smaller, local systems. It will also require less energy-guzzling transport of energy, whether it’s gas, oil, or electricity. The researchers, in any case, are optimistic: “the sky is the limit.”

Click here to read the original VRTNEWS story (in Dutch). Translated and published here with permission from the original authors. Last edited on 6 March 2019. 

This release was first published 6 March 2019 by KU Leuven.

Energy Vision Urges N.Y. to Include Biomethane in Climate Legislation

Energy Vision, which researches clean energy and transportation technologies, recently filed testimony with the New York State Legislature making the case for including biomethane made from organic waste as a renewable energy source in the Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA). 

At a legislative hearing on the CCPA, Energy Vision Founder Joanna Underwood testified that New York has a massive organic waste stream emitting prolific amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG) 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over 20 years. But methane from organic wastes can be processed into renewable biomethane, the lowest carbon fuel available today. That could be crucial to meeting the state’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and CCPA objectives, noted Energy Vision.

“New York has an opportunity to frame policy measures to enable more in-state biomethane production and use, unleashing deep positive climate impacts and many co-benefits,” said Underwood in a statement. “Explicitly including biomethane in the CCPA would be a significant policy step toward developing it in New York. We strongly encourage the legislature to take it and to place a high priority on pursuing the CCPA and other measures that could help accelerate biomethane in the state.”

Energy Vision estimates that turning New York’s organic wastes into biomethane could reduce overall GHG emissions in the state by up to 15 percent. The California Air Resources Board has verified biomethane as net carbon-neutral or even net carbon-negative over its lifecycle (when used as a road fuel displacing diesel in truck and bus fleets).

Other states have policies enabling biomethane development, which New York could consider adopting under the CCPA framework, Energy Vision pointed out. Low Carbon Fuel Standards (LCFS) in California and Oregon spurred biomethane development by requiring blending petroleum-based fuels with renewable alternatives. New York State Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner introduced a similar measure for New York and is exploring ways to expand anaerobic digestion facilities to process New York’s farm and food wastes into biomethane.

“There are many steps needed if New York is to achieve its ambitious climate goals,” said Woerner in a statement. “The CCPA would be an important framework for decision making, and the Low Carbon Fuel Standard I am proposing could provide one strong incentive for growing a new waste-to-fuel industry in our state.”