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Wasted waste
WTE can rid us of energy crisis and pollution problem

The escalating demand of energy in India, which is projected to be 448,000 MW by 2020, could lead to huge environmental damage if the current methods of energy production go on. On the one hand, there is this huge demand-supply gap and on the other hand is the fragile condition of environment. Well, there is a solution for this dilemma too. The Waste-to-Energy (WTE) production technology solves these two problems as it converts waste from landfill sites into energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions too.

Recently, companies like Tata Power, GMR Energy, Maytas Infra Ltd., Ambuja Cements Ltd., Ramky Enviro Engineers et al showed their interest to invest in the Rs.175 crore WTE plant in New Delhi. This horde makes at-least one thing clear: this technology has got a lot of returns. This first-of-its-kind project in Delhi is aimed at generating about 16 MW of power from waste. The WTE uses waste as fuel instead of coal or gas to run the power plant. The waste undergoes intense mechanical & thermal processes to flush out the combustible elements. This Refuse-Derived Fuel (RDF) is further burnt in a boiler to generate power. However, capital investment in this project is very high compared to typical coal-powered plants. The investments stands at Rs.11 crores per MW compared to Rs.4 crores per MW required by coal plants. But then, this high investment is compensated by almost zero fuel cost.

On global scale, there are about 600 major projects that use landfill gas for energy generation. The WTE technology had also been successful in countries like Germany, where 65% of municipal waste in the form of landfill sites recover energy from landfill gas and in the UK, 40 such schemes are in place.
There are many other so-called WTE projects in Lucknow, Vijayawada, Ludhiana & Aligarh but then most of these plants have either closed down or are technologically obsolete. These power plants do not have efficient technology to obtain RDF and consequently pollute the environment. Thus these projects either need to be closed down or should be installed with latest technology. And most importantly, must be managed professionally (rather privately, in Indian context!)

As per an Assocham research, Urban India generates 120,000 tonnes of waste per day (tpd) and while 59 major cities of India generate 39,031 tpd. Delhi alone generates 6,000 tpd, Mumbai generates about 5,800 tpd, Kolkata 4,000 tpd, Bengalooru 2,800 tpd & Chennai 2,675 tpd. Moreover, most of the city’s landfills are running out of capacity. The MCD spends about Rs.2.4 billion to manage garbage annually. This money can be further utilised to set-up more WTE units and the like initiatives. Also, this method also addresses the problem of over-capacity land-fills. Moreover, the non-degradable waste can be re-cycled and traded to generate more fund for this concept. Sample this: waste produced in Delhi could rake in Rs.365 crores annually. Out of the 6,000 tpd in Delhi, 60% is organic waste, 25% is re-cyclable material & 15% is inert. Thus, about 40% of the waste (that do not form a part of RDF) can be used for other purposes. It is estimated that India would generate about 150 million tonnes of waste, in next seven years.

This waste if judiciously used can be used as fuel for so many more WTE projects. Even if this technology is replicated across other four mega cities in the country, it would generate about 100 MW energy. This would further reduce garbage accumulation and other resulting health problems. After all, who can deny the fact that missing on waste-to-energy will be waste-of-energy!

By:- Sray Agarwal

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