Officials in Orlando, Fla., are investigating the possibility of installing the nation's first waste-to-energy gasification plant to process the city's trash into clean energy. According to the Orlando Sentinel, a test plant could start construction in as little as 18 months. If successful, the technology would then be scaled up to process all of the city's non-recyclable waste.
According to the Washington-based Gasification Technologies Council (GTC), waste-to-energy gasification works by heating trash (or any carbon-based material) in a closed chamber to extract what is called “syngas,” a clean-burning mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be used to generate power. Though GTC reports that there are 140 gasification plants operating around the world and 19 in the United States fueled by coal, petroleum coke or biomass, the Orlando plant would be the first U.S. facility fueled by municipal solid waste.
The proposed plan is a partnership between the city, which would provide the trash; Orange County, which would apportion landfill space for the gasification facility; and the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), which would buy the gas. Under the plan, garbage trucks would ferry collected waste directly to the gasification facility. A private company would extract any recyclables, and the remainder would be processed into syngas, which would be purchased by OUC to generate power.
The partners expect a private company to fund, build and operate the plant. Though the construction cost is expected to run into the tens of millions, Orlando Public Works Director Alan Oyler told the Sentinel that many companies are interested in the opportunity, mainly since it would serve as a proof-of-concept for the rest of the country.