Tuesday, 5 August 2014
New Florida Biogas Project Already Reaping Great Rewards
In February, a new biogas project began operating in central Florida managed by a company known as Harvest Power. The company was contracted to handle food waste in the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), otherwise known as the property owned by the Walt Disney World resort. The project was implemented as a means of turning the food waste generated by the resort into a source of sustainable energy.
At first, the Harvest Power Energy Garden was planning to only accept food waste from the various restaurants and hotels scattered around the Disney property however the results of the project were so favourable in such a short amount of time that the company is now accepting food waste from other commercial entities in the general vicinity. They are taking discarded food, fats, oils, grease and bio solids from local restaurants, hotels and other entities.
So, what happens to all of that waste? It is pumped into a series of processing tanks capable of holding 1.2 million gallons each. The tanks provide the optimal conditions necessary for certain micro-organisms to digest the waste in a comparatively short amount of time. What would take years to decompose in a landfill is completely digested by the micro-organisms in less than 30 days. The result of all this microscopic feasting is enough methane gas to produce 27 million kWh of energy annually.
Most of the energy produced thus far has gone to meet the power and cooling needs of the Walt Disney World resort however, as business picks up, it is conceivable that Harvest Power could expand their operations to the point of sending excess electricity to the local grid. Being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US, Central Florida could potentially produce enough food waste to significantly reduce the state's dependence on fossil fuels.
One of the exciting things about the Florida biogas project is that it is taking a very old concept and applying it in a very modern way. For instance, biogas production is nothing new. All of the food waste that goes into landfills produces methane as it decomposes. That is why landfills have to be vented for a certain amount of time after being closed. The biogas concept simply speeds up the decomposition through the process of anaerobic digestion. Turning food waste into usable energy makes use of an old process while at the same time reducing the stress on landfills and providing sustainable energy.
Other biogas projects similar to what Harvest Power is doing exist in other parts of the US. These are also popular in Europe. Biogas projects are easy to set up, comparatively inexpensive and easy to maintain. What's more, the need for new infrastructure is minimal in most cases.
The Harvest Power Energy Garden should serve as an exhibition of the potential of biogas as a source of renewable energy. The world throws away a lot of food that could be used in place of fossil fuels.