News Column

Maui Turning Garbage Into Energy

April 26, 2013
Maui (Photo: Creative Commons)
Maui (Photo: Creative Commons)

Maui County officials said Thursday they have selected a California company to develop a facility that will divert garbage from the island's main landfill and convert it into fuel that can be used to generate electricity.

Anaergia Services of Carlsbad, Calif., will own and operate the "Integrated Waste Conversion and Energy Project" that will take about 380 tons of waste a day and convert it into liquefied natural gas and compacted briquettes. The fuel products can be used on Maui or shipped elsewhere in the state to be burned for power production.

The selection of Anaergia Services from a field of 20 bidders is the first step of a process that will include County Council hearings, community input and environmental reviews before ground can be broken on the project.

"Living on an island, we are always looking for ways to preserve our aina and make better use of our natural resources," said Mayor Alan Arakawa. "That is why this IWCEP project is so important. We are looking at reducing waste in our landfill, cutting down the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, producing a clean biofuel for industrial consumers as well as greatly expanding the recycling of materials in our community."

The scope of the project changed since it was announced nearly a year ago. County officials originally envisioned a waste-to-energy facility similar to the HPOWER plant on Oahu that burns trash to generate power, which is sold to Hawaiian Electric Co.

But Maui Electric Co. couldn't commit to buying power from Maui County on a 24-hour-a-day basis -- a commitment that would be needed to make such a project economically viable. The island's wind farms, with a combined 72 megawatts of generating capacity, already produce more electricity than MECO can use at night when demand for power is low. As a result the wind farms are forced to curtail, or shed, power during those times.

So county officials switched gears and looked for a technology that could convert the island's garbage into fuel products that could be transported, said Kyle Ginoza, Maui County environmental management director.

Anaergia will tap Maui's various waste streams, including municipal solid waste, green waste, sewage sludge, fats, oils, grease and landfill gas to produce the fuels.

The company's technology employs "mechanical treatment and anaerobic digestion" to convert waste into synthetic liquefied natural gas and a solid material called refuse-derived fuel, or RDF. Anaergia will take the RDF and compact it into "densified" briquettes for easier transport, Ginoza said.

The Anaergia plant will be able to process about 85 percent of the 450 tons of waste per day that goes into the Central Maui Landfill. The county will pay Anaergia a tipping fee to take the waste. Anaergia will market and sell the fuel products produced at the facility.

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(c)2013 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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Source: Copyright Honolulu Star-Advertiser (HI) 2013