According to a recent report published by industry analysts, Frost & Sullivan, Australia is posed to rapidly expand its waste-to-energy (WtE) portfolio. With the formalization of WtE policies from the New South Wales Energy Protection Agency, industry experts are expecting a big push for WtE technologies over the next six years. Frost & Sullivan’s report specifically pegs an installed capacity of 80 Megawatts by the end of 2020.
Supporters of WtE technology in Australia wish to emulate the successes of European countries, where trash incinerators and anaerobic digesters are used to reduce landfill use. Countries such as Sweden convert so much garbage to energy that they occasionally have to import trash from England and Norway to meet energy demands. And while Australia isn’t facing any immediate shortages in landfill capacity or trash, many believe that building up the country’s WtE capacity will give them an economic edge in the near-future.
The Australian waste management industry has been slow to adopt WtE due to the technical risks of investing in new technologies. This is despite the widespread use of facilities such as incinerators in other parts of the world. Additionally, only certain WtE technologies have been approved for industrial use by the Energy Protection Agency, an agency analogous to the US’s Environmental Protection Agency.
Currently, the Energy Protection Agency has approved mass combustion technologies which utilize bio-gas (methane) to produce electricity. These are essentially combustion engines, much like the one in your car, that are modified to burn methane instead of gasoline. This methane is derived from either incinerating trash or collecting it from landfills as its produced naturally by bacteria. The engine itself drives an electric turbine which produces electricity for distribution.
As it stands, Australia’s WtE sector is still nascent with very few facilities operating within the waste management industry. The largest uses of WtE come from converting wood pulp and other wood refuse into energy. But with government incentives added to the mix, experts believe that the Asia-Pacific region as whole will come to dominate the global market for WtE technologies.
Source: Waste Management World