June 15, 2005 | General

BioCycle World

BioCycle June 2005, Vol. 46, No. 6, p. 6

A biopower program launched in mid-May by Energy Trust of Oregon, Inc. includes a request for proposals (RFP) to turn organic waste into renewable energy. The program will grant up to $4.7 million in financial incentives for biopower that can deliver electricity to Pacific Power and Portland General Electric, using landfill gas, wood chips, dairy manure, biogas from sewage treatment and other related methods.
Biomass energy resources comprise the third major component of Energy Trust’s renewable resource program. Energy Trust’s solar program has doubled the number of solar arrays in Oregon in just two years; Energy Trust’s wind projects have substantially increased wind energy production in Oregon. “Oregon’s biomass resources are abundant, homegrown and tremendously diverse. More important, these are materials that someone usually has to pay to get rid of. We have the opportunity to use them to produce clean, renewable energy,” said Adam Serchuk, biopower program manager at Energy Trust. “We’re looking for projects that use tested, commercial technology that can easily be replicated, and that can come on line soon – ideally in 2006.” In some cases, Energy Trust may also be able to share the cost of a feasibility study to evaluate the potential for specific projects.
Energy Trust expects to gain up to 3.9 average megawatts of energy-enough to power over 2,100 homes-from projects funded through this request for proposals. “Biomass already provides a significant amount of energy in Oregon, for instance in the wood products sector, and it will be an important part of Oregon’s energy future, as well. The time is right to step up our efforts, and we’re looking forward to the response,” said Serchuk. Energy Trust has approved four biomass-fueled projects through its Open Solicitation program. “We receive unsolicited proposals regularly for biomass projects, which reinforces the potential for a more formal program.”
The RFP is available at For specific questions, call Adam Serchuk, 503-445-7632, (The first RFP deadline is June 24th; the deadline for the second round of proposals is October 14, 2005.) For more information, visit the Energy Trust website,, or call 1 866-ENTRUST (368-7878). More details on the projects and Energy Trust’s expansion plans will appear in the July or August, 2005 issue of BioCycle.
Millions of tons of recyclable inert construction and demolition debris are piling up in the landfills of Hong Kong. “This is creating a big problem for the construction industry,” notes Thomas Tang, senior advisor to the Business Environment Council in Resource Recovery Forum. “The waste is accumulating and becomes unusable. C&D debris accounted for 38 percent of total refuse dumped in landfills in 2003.”
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) produced 20.5 million tons of C&D debris last year. While most of this was inert and dumped at public landfills for reuse, five million tons are still unused, Tang said. Last year’s unused waste adds to the one million tons of leftover inert waste in 2002 and eight million tons in 2003. All were dumped at the Tuen Mun and Tseung Kwan O landfills.
Business Environment Council chief executive Andrew Thomson points out that the waste would provide much needed material for cement and road construction in a resource-hungry market.
The construction sector has responded favorably to proposals to export C&D debris, because it would mean saving disposal charges of HK$125 per ton, set to be introduced this year. But the biggest hurdle for executing the plan are international conventions regulating the export of waste.
Last year, Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao signed an agreement providing for better communication between Hong Kong and Guangzhou on the management of cross-border dumping of dredged materials generated in the SAR, as well as the accommodation of inert construction and demolition material in mainland waters. But technical details have not been finalized, an Environmental Protection Department spokeswoman said.
Businesses last year saved more than $2.3 million from the hundreds of matches made by the Iowa Waste Exchange (IWE) in fiscal year 2004. “Our specialists diverted over 77,000 tons of material from landfills last year, and the exchange consistently serves more than 2,500 businesses annually,” says Matt Rasmussen, business manager at the state’s Department of Economic Development’s Recycle Iowa office. Often, IWE helps companies recycle common materials as paper, cardboard and packaging. But recent exchanges illustrate the more unusual challenges.
“We use every resource available to find recyclers or end-users for a wide variety of materials,” explains Rick Meyers, IWE Resource Specialist. For example, Bulk Bag Services in Cedar Rapids receives used woven polypropylene bags from other firms. After inspecting and refurbishing the bags, the company ships them back to the owners for reuse, but unrepairable bags are sent to the landfill. That changed when Meyers linked Bulk Bag with City Carton Recycling, which accepts bags at no charge and ships the plastic to overseas recycling markets.
IWE also offers on-site waste reduction assistance; funding comes from a portion of state tonnage fees mandated by the Iowa legislature. For more on waste exchanges, contact Rasmussen by e-mail at
The Chief Executive of General Electric last month urged the U.S. government to develop a clear energy policy, and impose controls on carbon emissions to fight global warming. Jeffrey Immelt announced his company’s new corporate strategy, increasing the number of products marketed to an environmentally conscious world marketplace following a year’s planning on its “ecomagination” initiative. GE intends to double its research budget for energy and environmental technologies to $1.5 billion, forecasting revenues of $20 billion by 2010.
Over the next seven years, Immelt pledged that the company’s energy efficiency would improve by 30 percent and its worldwide greenhouse emissions would decrease by one percent – noting that they would have increased by 40 percent otherwise. Based on information in a New York Times article, the ecomagination initiative comprises 17 technologies, that include developments like its H System: gas turbine, and hybrid railroad locomotive .
Another breakthrough stressed is a cleaner coal-burning system with gasification that produces more electricity and allows much easier cleanup of sulfur, mercury and particulates. “If you look to the future, there is going to be a day when we have standards of some kind pertaining to carbon,” Immelt declared. “I think most business people are planning for that implicitly, even without anything that’s overt.” Immelt pledged to work with General Electric’s customers and provide “the financing that supports development and application of new technologies.”
Immelt runs the biggest company in America, leading some activists in the global warming debate to view his comments as a major turning point on climate change. He believes mandatory controls on emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, are inevitable. He would double GE investments in energy and environmental technologies to reach a global market for products that help other companies reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Architects, designers, construction companies and others can get good instruction from a new guide, Detailing for The Deconstruction of Buildings, developed at the University of Dundee, Scotland. As reported in Resource Recovery Forum, edited by Kit Strange, the guide encourages designers and builders to use materials and methods which would enable the bulk of buildings to be reused or recycled once they have reached the end of their useful lives. This can involve a variety of measures, from using lime mortars and renders instead of cement which means bricks and blocks could be more easily separated, to exploring different types of insulation and more durable materials such as reusable ceiling tiles. One of the keys is using building components which are easily handled, so that both installation and removal are easy and safe.
The alternative details contained in the guide are designed for maximum “applicability” rather than ultimate “greenness,” explains Fionn Stevenson, who is also chair of the Scottish Ecological Design Association. “We have identified measures which promote inherent flexibility, so that buildings can be refurbished and adjusted to the changing needs of occupants with minimum of disruption, waste and cost to the client. They can also be designed to allow for easy repair and maintenance of components which are worth repairing, so reducing the waste stream even further.”
The documents are available at
Tottori Ecotown 2020, a nonprofit organization in Japan’s Tottori Prefecture, recently conducted a two-month pilot project which provided transportation services using shared bus-taxis powered by cooking-oil waste collected from households. Japan for Sustainability reports that the bus, called Inaba EcoLimo Waiwai Go-Go, made two round trips a day between Wakaba-dai to Karo via Tottori University, a route not covered by public transportation.
Passengers can ride without charge if they obtain membership in the “Be Nice to the Earth Club.” Membership in this club is awarded to people who bring used cooking oil to collection sites at elementary schools, and to bus passengers who promise to perform ecofriendly activities such as volunteering for cleanups and buying green products.
The goal is to set up a shared bus-taxi company co-organized by university students, residents and local businesses. The company will own buses powered by biodiesel fuel refined from used cooking oil, and run them in areas with inadequate public transportation. It hopes that local residents will eventually use this ecobus instead of their private cars. It also hopes that the bus service will encourage interaction between passengers.
The April-June, 2005 issue of Ag Innovation News continues its excellent coverage of biomass energy opportunities, reporting on a legislative mandate in Minnesota that requires a two percent biodiesel blend in every gallon of diesel fuel sold in the state. It’s scheduled to take effect in June – opening a vast new industrial market for soybean oil.
In the United States, biodiesel demand is estimated to increase by as much as 850 percent over the next 10 years. Only about 150 million gallons are now produced annually, including about three million gallons in Minnesota. However, with two biodiesel refineries under construction and others planned, the state’s capacity should grow significantly, notes the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI).
AURI has helped beet farmers explore using beet sugar to boost ethanol production. A research project showed that adding crystallized sugar to corn slurry speeded fermentation, says Wayne Wagner, a Crookston farmer and legislative liaison for the Red River Valley Sugar Beet Growers Association. Future research will evaluate using less-refined sugar beet syrup to make ethanol.
In the current market, it doesn’t make economic sense to use beet sugar in ethanol manufacturing, Wagner says. He estimates that ethanol would return less than one-third the current domestic sugar price. However, ethanol could offer an alternative use for excess sugar in bumper-crop years, when U.S. sugar production exceeds government trade quotas, he says.
A community of 1,100 called Chew Magna – south of Bristol in the United Kingdom – hopes to become the first in Britain to cause no damage to the planet by “changing the way they shop, eat, travel and think about rubbish.” Three years ago, their region in the South West UK consumed 48 million metric tons of materials and products, generating 20.3 million tons of waste – just over 4 tons/person. Engineering students at the University of Bath have already drawn up options to power the village using renewable energy, and the villagers are well on their way to buying an old mill to serve as a recycling depot. Commented Ian Roderick, a driving force for the project at a Chew Magna zero waste action day about taking on the ambitious agenda: “If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito,” quoting the late social scientist Kenneth Boulding. “We want to do this in a way that enhances the spirit, to make sure it’s an exciting venture and a great challenge for the future.”
In a recent newsletter, the Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania (PROP) describes a 60,000 sq ft recycling center built in 1993 that processes 40 tons of recyclable materials/day from 24 dropoff sites. Located in Montgomery, Pennsylvania, the Lycoming County Resource Management Services is submitting a solid waste permit to construct and operate a 100 tpd anaerobic digestion facility to process MSW into energy. Plans are to run the pilot plant for at least three years to evaluate its economics and increase throughput to 800 tpd. A report on operations and research findings will be published in a future BioCycle, written by Prof. Tom DiStefano of Bucknell University (developer of the anaerobic digestion process) and Mike Hnatin of Lycoming County.
Deeply involved in extension work, poultry research and composting for over 30 years, Dr. Lewis Carr died earlier this year. Based at the University of Maryland’s Eastern Shore Education Center, Dr. Carr was known worldwide for his work with composting poultry, agricultural and municipal residuals into environmentally-friendly products. He was instrumental in developing procedures for poultry mortality composting, provided years of leadership for Maryland’s Better Composting School, and was a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Compost Science & Utilization. He authored many reports in BioCycle which included the following: Testing Composting Strategies to Control N and P; Poultry Litter Composting Comparisons; and What Makes Good Compost?; and in Compost Science & Utilization: Nitrogen and Phosphorous Dynamics in Cocomposted Yard Trimmings and Broiler Litter.

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