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Vaporizing Garbage to Create Electricity

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the sounds-like-a-plan dept.


CaroKann writes "Geoplasma is planning to build a power plant in St. Lucie County, Florida that will generate electricity by vaporizing landfill trash and sewage treatment plant sludge with plasma arcs. It will be the first plant of its kind in the USA and the largest in the world. The power plant is expected to destroy 3000 tons of garbage, generating about 120 megawatts of electricity per day. The plant will also supply steam to a nearby Tropicana juice plant. The landfill is expected to be depleted in about 18 years. In addition, up to 600 tons of melted, hardened sludge will be produced each day and will be sold for road construction."

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Mr. Fusion! (4, Funny)

Helmholtz (2715) | about 8 years ago | (#16073729)

Glad ol' Doc Brown had the right idea .. now when do I get one to stick ontop of the trunk of my time travelling Delorean?

Re:Mr. Fusion! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073762)

sadly the delorean could never actually reach 85 miles per hour because it was such a heavy car.

Re:Mr. Fusion! (2, Informative)

tickbox (945624) | about 8 years ago | (#16073883)

88 miles per hour...

Re:Mr. Fusion! (1)

Solr_Flare (844465) | about 8 years ago | (#16073770)

2015, give or take any tampering with history between now and then.

How many AOL CD's? (5, Funny)

phatvw (996438) | about 8 years ago | (#16073787)

Let me try to brush up on my yank-math...

3000 tons = 6,000,000 pounds
120,megawatts = 120,000,000 watts
A CDROM weighs 1/2 oz.

So you'd need approx 96 AOL CDs per hour to run a 60W lightbulb. I think I have just enough of those to get me through the end of the year...

Re:Mr. Fusion! (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 8 years ago | (#16073849)

Glad ol' Doc Brown had the right idea .. now when do I get one to stick ontop of the trunk of my time travelling Delorean?

When you fix that damned flux capacitor.

Re:Mr. Fusion! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073930)

The other kids in 2nd hour Science told me I could get one at Radio Shack cheap but that they are usually out of stock. I've been calling all the stores in my area and asking for a flux capacitor for three years now and they never have one. And for some reason the clerks always laughing their asses off when I call...

Re:Mr. Fusion! (1)

crow5599 (994334) | about 8 years ago | (#16073950)

Man ... I bet half the people visiting the comments section for this story are just looking to see if a Mr. Fusion joke has been made yet. (Including me. Curses!)

Wow... all your trash are belong to us! (1)

King_TJ (85913) | about 8 years ago | (#16073732)

I dunno... the idea of vaporizing trash with plasma arcs sounds like something you'd do in a 1st. person shooter ... not a recycling plant. But if this works as advertised, it's pretty cool. How much electricity does it take to run though? Seems like this would consume a lot of power!

Re:Wow... all your trash are belong to us! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073754)

According to the article,

"The facility will operate on about a third of the power it generates, free from outside electricity."

This is supposing it works exactly as represented. If it does, it'll produce a net power output of 80 megawatts/day, which should help amortize the investment of it's construction a bit... If it works, great! However, time will tell...

Re:Wow... all your trash are belong to us! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073829)

What in the world are these "megawatts per day" people keep talking about? I think you mean just megawatts.

Re:Wow... all your trash are belong to us! (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 8 years ago | (#16073958)

Generally they mean megawatt-hours per day. I suppose it makes them sound more intelligent. Also, it lets you say you have 80 of 'em per day instead of just calling it a 3 MW facility...

Re:Wow... all your trash are belong to us! (1)

nuklearfusion (748554) | about 8 years ago | (#16074004)

What in the world are these "megawatts per day" people keep talking about? I think you mean just megawatts.

thats what i though when i read it. after rereading it, however, it looks like they meant to say "the plant will burn 300 tons of trash per day, generating 120 megawatts.

Indeed (1)

Mark_MF-WN (678030) | about 8 years ago | (#16074018)

Indeed. This seems pretty far-fetched. I'll tip my hat to American ingenuity if it works ... can you conceive of how many cities are going to want one of these plants if it's for real? The money to be made is unimaginable. Landfill space is expensive. Dealing with "sludge" is expensive and suffers from severe NIMBY issues. If you could just incinerate it all and generate power to boot... I just need to see some proof. It's just so incredible, you know? What kind of hideous gotchas does this plan hide? And for it to not produce any significant quantity of noxious byproducts? Hard to believe.

Anyway, suffice to say, it's good that there are people getting out there and trying wild new ideas. Isn't that what made western society great in the first place? It's time for some more of that.

Not so fast...budy! (-1, Troll)

bogaboga (793279) | about 8 years ago | (#16073735)

Let's wait for the environmentalists to make noise. I will not take this as a serious development untill I hear from those zealots.

Re:Not so fast...budy! (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 8 years ago | (#16073784)

I'm not "an environmentalist" but I do have increased interest in the environment these days... maybe because of the increased media coverage (undoubtedly so) or maybe my worry over how my kids will live... whatever. Independantly, I have notice the news has lately referred to global warming as "climate change." When it was considered controversial, it was "global warming" vs. denial. Off the topic though...

It was my first question, though, to wonder what the emissions are and how much of that can be contained in some way. Would it be worse than fossil fuels? How efficient is this? How much energy is returned compared to the amount used in the generation? (I assume the gain in energy is considerable since someone is spending money to make it happen and nobody does anything without profit motive right?)

Re:Not so fast...budy! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | about 8 years ago | (#16073818)

I'm not "an environmentalist" but I do have increased interest in the environment these days... maybe because of the increased media coverage (undoubtedly so) or maybe my worry over how my kids will live... whatever.

Since you say you do have an increased interest in the environment, I guess you'd be also interested in knowing that there are so many dead zones in the world...the majority along the US coasts - sadly.

This content/investigations/es2206/es2206page04.cfm [] would be an interesting read.

Re:Not so fast...budy! (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 8 years ago | (#16073907)

The map that you link to does not show the most zones on the US coast. In fact, I count more red dots just in Europe. But more to the point, what the hell does this have to do with garbage disposal in Florida?

Speaking as an environmentalist... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16074017)

Oh, sorry, you seem to have to corner on self-righteous zealotry already.

That's complete folly! (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | about 8 years ago | (#16073737)

Everyone knows the best thing to do with garbage is to attach a rocket to a large ball of it and fire it directly into space.

Re:That's complete folly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073885)

Which is an infinitely better idea than firing it indirectly into space.

Re:That's complete folly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073941)

Of course, we also need to keep enough garbage around so that when the first large ball 'o garbage comes back we can deflect it.

Re:That's complete folly! (1)

iced_773 (857608) | about 8 years ago | (#16073968)

I got the reference and everything, but it's a little unrealistic. Two things:
  1. Cost. IANANFE, but if I remember correctly, it costs upwards of $20000/kg to launch something into space.
  2. Space junk. Since it's so costly to even get it up there, you can forget about sending it out of orbit, and it's getting quite cluttered up there already.

Re:That's complete folly! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073969)

Just don't use the 'smelloscope' on it.

Whence this vapor? (1, Funny)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | about 8 years ago | (#16073739)

How will this vaporized garbage be disposed of? If it's just dumped into the atmosphere, won't it just contribute to the global warming problem or smog or make cancer rates skyrocket?

Re:Whence this vapor? (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | about 8 years ago | (#16073753)

I think that's the "melted, hardened sludge" the summary mentions.

Re:Whence this vapor? (5, Insightful)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | about 8 years ago | (#16073771)

The summary also mentions processing 3000 tons of garbage a day, and yielding 600 tons of sludge. Unless they're converting mass directly into energy, a la nuclear fission, I'd say there's about 2400 tons of apparent gas that needs to be accounted for still.

Re:Whence this vapor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073814)

Most of the gas will be going to generate electricity.

Try for a general summary. (I'm not associated with them, just interested in the topic.

Re:Whence this vapor? (2)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | about 8 years ago | (#16073840)

Someone didn't pay excessive amounts of attention in physics or chemistry class, it seems.

Re:Whence this vapor? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 8 years ago | (#16073929)

He phrased that poorly, but I gathered what he meant: not all of the remaining matter will be put into the atmosphere as a pollutant. The resulting gas will be some kind of hydrocarbon. After combustion for electricity, some will become CO2 (arguably a pollutant), some will be water vapor, and some will be unburned gas (a pollutant). Any leftover particulates could presumably be scrubbed and collected.

Re:Whence this vapor? (4, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 8 years ago | (#16073851)

Well most of that will be water vapor. I think this is great and worth trying. I do think that my opinion of this counts a lot more than most of the people posting on slashdot.
I happen to live in Port Saint Lucie, FL. If this meet the emissions standards which the small plants in Japan do then it will beat the daylights out of an other coal fired plant and get ride of that huge landfill.

Re:Whence this vapor? (1)

interiot (50685) | about 8 years ago | (#16073898)

What happens to all the carbon atoms then? The primary mass of water comes from oxygen.... and the trash we produce is not primarily made of oxygen.

Re:Whence this vapor? (1)

be-fan (61476) | about 8 years ago | (#16073972)

I presume that's the "600 tons of hardened sludge". Remember, a lot of waste (in fact, a lot of anything), is primarily water, so if 3000 tons of material create 600 tons of sludge, a large percentage of that remaining 2400 tons is going to be the steam for the aforementioned tropicana plant.

Re:Whence this vapor? (5, Informative)

interiot (50685) | about 8 years ago | (#16073859)

"Plasma arc" = incinerator [] . No fancy chemical or nuclear processes happen, they still dump out a huge amount of CO2, just like normal incinerators. Sure, they scrub the exhaust for really harmful chemicals and particles, but they still release a lot of CO2.

Re:Whence this vapor? (5, Insightful)

Skye16 (685048) | about 8 years ago | (#16073992)

As would the oil/coal/natural gas power plant that was burning afore mentioned fossil fuels, as well.

If we require a amount of energy and produce x amount of CO2 and y amount of trash, but have a way to reduce y without drastically increasing x, then I don't see why this is such a bad thing. If the exhaust is scrubbed, and the CO2 is nearly the same, then we've taken one little step toward a cleaner world.

Ideally, there may come a time when our cars don't produce CO2, industry produces minimal amounts, and our power plants are primarily green as well. In that case, dumping *some* CO2 into the atmosphere while reducing the amount of landfill we need for garbage is one hell of a bargain.

Re:Whence this vapor? (2, Informative)

alienw (585907) | about 8 years ago | (#16073873)

I think it said in the summary the gas would be burned and turned into electricity in a gas turbine. Less pollution than a coal plant, not using fossil fuels, removing trash from landfills. Not bad.

Re:Whence this vapor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073761)

Roads. It's in the summary

Re:Whence this vapor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073788)


Where we're going, we don't need roads.

Re:Whence this vapor? (1)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | about 8 years ago | (#16073811)

I've been testing this first-hand since 1977

I'm good, dont worry 'bout it...

Kinda strange (1)

ChadAmberg (460099) | about 8 years ago | (#16073745)

Having garbage plasma arcs listed under hardware.slashdot but I guess its the best there is. Have to wonder about how such things as emissions are handled.

Smells like teen spirit (0, Flamebait)

rbf2000 (862211) | about 8 years ago | (#16073746)

Isn't there some sort of pollution that is created by vaporizing the trash? I can't imagine the process would be free of emissions. All I know is that I wouldn't want to live downwind of this place.

It's a waste of valuable garbage (4, Interesting)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 8 years ago | (#16073748)

We'll be harvesting landfills in 100 years to get the materials (plastic stuff mostly) that our country is so busy paying China to manufacture, then buying and disposing of in said landfills. If all that fodder is vaporized for energy, we're screwed.

Re:It's a waste of valuable garbage (1)

portforward (313061) | about 8 years ago | (#16073778)

You know, as I read this article, I had that same thought. I always thought that the next most logical place for us to "mine" for raw materials would be landfills. Lots of metals and carbon. They said that they would use the "slag" for building roads. I would think that that would be the place that you would look for materials to build the cars.

I don't know. I guess if they are just burning off the carbon, then they are taking the plastic that used to be petroleum and burning it. I didn't know you could do that sludge though.

Re:It's a waste of valuable garbage (1)

mnmn (145599) | about 8 years ago | (#16073825)

Makes me wonder.

Landfills in China must be cheap. Why dont we ship all garbage there?

Re:It's a waste of valuable garbage (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073905)

Shipping is not.

Re:It's a waste of valuable garbage (2, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | about 8 years ago | (#16073984)

Sure, and with today's fuel prices, it would cost us hardly anything!

Re:It's a waste of valuable garbage (5, Insightful)

gameforge (965493) | about 8 years ago | (#16073877)

I don't know anything about waste management, but if people care about recycling plastics, shouldn't they be doing that before they throw it in the trash? I think once it's in the landfill, it's "gone"; that means even if we wanted to, there's no way to harvest it out of a landfill that's remotely profitable. I mean, how much would they have to pay you to start digging through landfills for eight hours a day? And that's just the cost of mining the plastic out of the landfill.

People need to worry about recycling these materials (plastic, aluminum, paper, etc.) before they toss them into the trash. Many people (myself included) have signed up for seperate services for recycling stuff like this, and put out a recycling bin once a week with the trash.

Re:It's a waste of valuable garbage (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 8 years ago | (#16073912)

If we aren't making plastic out of atmospheric CO2 and energy a century from now, we either won't need plastic, or we won't need energy that much. Because our current rate of consumption growth demands we generate vast amounts of energy and plastic from something other than oil from the ground, which will be long gone by 2106. If not something like solar and CO2, then just scrubbed coal, extracted so efficiently that we can spend much of its energy cleaning it to near-zero emissions.

If we don't go down one of those paths, we'll pollute so much CO2 into the air that we will force our radically reduced plastic and energy needs, by destroying our civilization.

can it (-1, Redundant)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | about 8 years ago | (#16073750)

can it produce one point twenty-one jiga-watts?

Sounds like a great plan... (4, Interesting)

ossington (853347) | about 8 years ago | (#16073755)

With minimal impact, good usage of by products and so forth. The only problem is that if we can just zap away our inconvenient little problems (tonnes and tonnes of trash, for example), we will never do anything to curb our overzealous consumption. Doesn't sound like a sustainable idea in the grand scheme of things.

Re:Sounds like a great plan... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073837)

Yes it does... if we zap away our trash, then of course it's sustainable.

Re:Sounds like a great plan... (1)

pipingguy (566974) | about 8 years ago | (#16073853)

Everyone should feel guilty about living in a consumerist society, right?

Re:Sounds like a great plan... (2, Interesting)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | about 8 years ago | (#16073938)

Well, its not supposed to be the ultimate solution. Anyone looking for a single key that'll fix all our consumption problems is living in a dream world. I don't think letting our garbage pile up beneith us was doing much better at curbing our consumption either. I think that our consumption isn't the real problem; its what we do with what's left over from consuming things. No matter how little we consume, if we can't take the output and make it into new inputs, it will not be sustainable in the end. This kind of technology is a step in the right direction, its taking outputs of consumtion and making inputs of most of it again. Combined with other technologies that develope over time, it will ultimatly be the best solution to sustainability; much more so that just consuming less.

Megawatts per day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073757)

Megawatts per day? Will that power my computer? I think it uses 15kg-m/s^2.

How tested is this technology. (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about 8 years ago | (#16073760)

After reading the article, which briefly mentioned small scale plants in Japan and failures in other countries like Germany, it's starting to sound a bit to good to be true.

BTW, does this mean trash powered Deloreans will be out in a few years? I won't even ask for time travel to be standard, it can be optional.

Megawatts per day (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073763)

"The power plant is expected to destroy 3000 tons of garbage, generating about 120 megawatts of electricity per day."

Watt is a measure of energy per second. That is, power. Saying 120 megawatts of electricity per day is nonsense. I think they meant to just say 120 megawatts.

Doesn't slashdot have editors for this kind of stuff?

Re:Megawatts per day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073824)

I think they meant 120 megawatts over the entire day. Let me think about this... 3600*24=86400 seconds/day. 120 million divided by 86400 gives us... ah screw it. Someone else do the math.

Re:Megawatts per day (1)

crow (16139) | about 8 years ago | (#16073864)

While you're technically correct (a watt is the power equivalent to one joule for one second), electricity is generally measured in kilowatt hours, as that's how it's sold. I expect that the "per day" was added by the reporter who had no clue. It probably puts out 120MW continuously (i.e., 120MW-hours per hour) or at peak operation.

What's obvious is that the writer didn't have a technical understanding.

Re:Megawatts per day (4, Funny)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 8 years ago | (#16073936)

What's obvious is that the writer didn't have a technical understanding.

Wow, I've never seen that happen. I mean, writers always completely understand the technology they are writing about. I think this is the first time I've ever read an article where the writer didn't understand what he was writing about.

Could happen in the Toronto area soon as well (5, Informative)

ergo98 (9391) | about 8 years ago | (#16073773)

Here in the Halton region, which is comprised of some suburbs just West of the Toronto metro, there has been some talk of building one of these plants [] (although they've tossed around the number $700 million). This is an effort to deal with the reality of garbage, not to mention that reality that Toronto has been giving the entire country a continual black-eye by shipping waste to Michigan [] (if I were a Michiganer, I'd be pissed to be another regions dumping ground. Even as an Ontarian, the endless row of trash hauling trucks, each leaving a wake of loose garbage, is untenable).

But despite the reality that no one wants to build dumps, and Toronto has been spending millions shipping it to an entirely different country, there are still the head-in-the-sand dreamers who would rather the issue just disappears. A prominent Toronto city bureaucrat [] , for instance, has poo-poohed the idea, decrying the vile idea of "burning" waste. They'd rather drive it 500 miles in transport trucks to dump it somewhere else.

It is burning the waste. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073953)

You should have read the summary, and the article, to find out how this type of disposal works. In effect, this technique does result in the combustion of the garbage. Instead of using a flame to ignite the waste, as in traditional methods of incineration, electricity is used. Vaporization is nothing more than extremely rapid combusion.

Anybody who refers to this technique as "burning" is absolutely correct. The only way they could be any more correct is to refer to it as "rapid burning".

What are the plants in Japan (1)

koll64 (546377) | about 8 years ago | (#16073776)

Could anybody give a link to existing facilities to get actual facts about what's going on?

Is it just me (1)

clean_stoner (759658) | about 8 years ago | (#16073781)

...or does vaporizing trash and sewage sludge sound, oh, I dunno, maybe a little bad for the environment? I mean seriosly, who knows what kinds of chemicals are in that stuff (especially the trash)?

Almost free energy? (1)

TylerTheGreat (848804) | about 8 years ago | (#16073783)

How are these plasma arcs going to be generated? I'm no physicist, but will the power needed to generate these arcs be outweighed by the energy produced from the garbage? These seems like, in essence, just burning really really hot, so how efficent can that be? Like I said, I'm not physicist. Can this really work? Is this more than just random propaganda?

Re:Almost free energy? (1)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | about 8 years ago | (#16073913)

Apparently, the vaporized garbage powers synthetic-gas turbines which produce more energy than needed to vaporize the gas. It still needs its fuel source and enough energy to get it started, so It's really just an advanced incenerator power plant.

Re:Almost free energy? (1)

zefram cochrane (761180) | about 8 years ago | (#16073993)

RTFA......From TFA:

Synthetic, combustible gas produced in the process will be used to run turbines to create about 120 megawatts of electricity that will be sold back to the grid. The facility will operate on about a third of the power it generates, free from outside electricity.

FRoST PIST (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073786)

Tropicana (0, Offtopic)

thammoud (193905) | about 8 years ago | (#16073793)

The plant will also supply steam to a nearby Tropicana juice plant.

Wouldn't that be considered incest?

Re:Tropicana (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073850)

No, it is the first step in project Soylent Green [] .

Re:Tropicana (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | about 8 years ago | (#16073986)


I also like this one: ...hardened sludge will be produced each day and will be sold for road construction.

Better than the current use of sludge.. as fertilizer! (and no, I'm not kidding).

Attempted before...unsuccessfully (5, Informative)

PreacherTom (1000306) | about 8 years ago | (#16073798)

This has been attempted before. I used to work in the waste industry, and one of my clients had a plan to develop this kind of technology. The problem was that, despite predictions, the waste simply did not burn hot enough. If they've managed to overcome this obstacle, this is going to be huge. The cost-effectiveness still concerns me, but government subsidies can take care of that.

Re:Attempted before...unsuccessfully (1)

daeg (828071) | about 8 years ago | (#16073833)

The mentioned city is small by comparison to major cities in the US. I can see subsidizing this plant, but there should be no reason to subsidize plants in say, New York City. In fact, if it turned out to work and to work predictably, I can see the generated power subsidizing trash collection.

Only if it works.

a few issues (2, Insightful)

faolan_devyn_aodfin (981785) | about 8 years ago | (#16073806)

this sounds like it has a lot of potential but I don't think poeple would be friendly to the idea the Tropicana juice plant would be recieving steam that was a biproduct of what the layman would essentally read as burnt trash.Even made me gag. But in all seriousness this sounds like a great idea and if all the biproducts are safe to use and this produces less pollution than fossil fuels then I am all for it. This may be the big break we need to to free our power plants from Big Oil--but the question reamins will Big Oil play fair and not try to have this programme regulated into oblivion with scare tatics? I hope not.

Energy that better AND cheaper. Amd as a Floridian I would welcome any power source to my state that would show promise of freeing ourselves from dependence on Big Oil at the municipal level.

The people of St. Lucie County won't go for it (5, Insightful)

BeeBeard (999187) | about 8 years ago | (#16073822)

This will never get built. Let me explain: People near the Treasure Coast are retirees. And I don't mean in the "Oh, it's Florida...of COURSE there are retired people there" sense. I mean that many of its communities were planned and built specifically for bluehairs. Port St. Lucie, for example, is just such a community.

Now as impossible as it may seem, octogenarians are not really up on the newest technological advances. The moment you say the words "landfill trash" to these people, the NIMBY (not in my backyard) impulse will dominate, and granny and gramps will be making phone calls, changing zoning rules, voting down money, and generally just making Geoplasma's job as difficult as possible. They're retired. If you thought they didn't have the time or inclination to do these kinds of things, then you're mistaken.

I know it makes no logical sense to want to make use of modern garbage disposal technology, and yet not want it anywhere within a million miles of you, but trust me, that is the mentality. The article characterizes this as a county-wide effort. I bet not. I bet the people who are slated to have this trash burning marvel right next to them will soon be mad as hell in 3...2...1...

Oxygen (1)

pipingguy (566974) | about 8 years ago | (#16073841)

Similar ideas have involved injecting oxygen to incinerate waste at very high heat. Does anyone have recent info on this process?

Downsides (5, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 8 years ago | (#16073843)

"Okay, who is the shit-head who threw away a barrel of sodium!"

Re:Downsides (1)

jrmcferren (935335) | about 8 years ago | (#16073886)

Who is the shithead that threw in that depleted uranium.

Energy / time^2? (5, Informative)

Will_Malverson (105796) | about 8 years ago | (#16073855)

From the summary:

...generating about 120 megawatts of electricity per day

120 megawatts per day? So, after about 8 days, it'll be generating a gigawatt? In a year, will it be producing 43.8 gigawatts?

Probably not.

My first guess was that it's probably generating 120 megawatt-hours per day, or what those of us who know physics would call "5 megawatts".

They say that they'll use about 1/3 of the generated energy, and plan to sell the remainder back to the grid. Electricity is usually worth something like $20-$50 / MWh. If they're selling 3.3MW into the grid, they might be able to get $1600 - $4000 / day from this thing.

However, they also say that they can recoup their $425M investment in 20 years. Assuming a 4% interest rate (municipal borrowing is cheap!), they'd need to pay back a little over $2.5 million per month, or about $85,000 per day.

If the power plant is actually generating 120 megawatts, then they're looking at (80*24) megawatt-hours per day, or $38,400 - $96,000. They're also selling steam and sludge, and I don't know what the current market value of those is. Yes, I know that you pay $60 - $100 / megawatt-hour for your home electric service, but electricity on the bulk market (especially at night) is a lot cheaper.

Re:Energy / time^2? (1)

hazem (472289) | about 8 years ago | (#16073959)

Don't forget the revenue from charging to collect the garbage in the first place. That in itself is a very lucrative business.

Or the total LOAD that the power station will be (1)

tangotango (980040) | about 8 years ago | (#16073965)

able to support. As an electrical engineer that deals with power systems, I have never dealt with, or heard of a power generator that is rated in Watt-hours. As a unit, watt-hours is energy consumption, not generation. This is true for nuclear reactors, steam turbines, hydro plants, your car's engine, or anything that generates power.

Re:Energy / time^2? (1, Funny)

tobiasly (524456) | about 8 years ago | (#16073977)

120 megawatts per day? So, after about 8 days, it'll be generating a gigawatt? In a year, will it be producing 43.8 gigawatts?

If only we could harness the fusion potential of common household garbage, everyone knows it easily generates 1.21 gigawatts.

Re:Energy / time^2? (1)

aniefer (910494) | about 8 years ago | (#16073999)

The article does say 120 megawatts (summary added the per-day). What's missing from your analysis is the millions currently being spent to deal with waste. Instead of burning off their landfill in 18 years, I could see this being more profitable if they accepted waste from other counties.
The waste problem suddenly changes from something they spend money on, to something that, at the very least, pays for itself.

Re:Energy / time^2? (5, Funny)

CaffeineJedi (643314) | about 8 years ago | (#16074016)

My first guess was that it's probably generating 120 megawatt-hours per day, or what those of us who know physics would call "5 megawatts".

Um... no. I think they actually meant 120 megawatts. Because you see:
120 megawatts * 24 hours = 2880 megawatt-hours.
If the price of a megawatt-hour is about $35 dollars (we'll just use the median value of your estimate), then they are making $100 800 a day .
Multiply that by 365, and you get: $36 792 000 dollars a year.
Which means... that if they sell back 2/3 of the energy over the course of 20 years, they will make: $490 560 000 dollars (gross, in today's dollars)

Just FYI, some of us also "know physics" and can actually use Google calculator to make an estimate ;)

Finally! (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 8 years ago | (#16073861)

A way to dispose of bodies without all that search-party-knee-deep-in-garbage silliness...

To stay on-topic, pie-in-the-sky stuff like this never pans out. It just doesn't. In this case, it will either use more energy than they thought, emit more pollution than they thought, require more maintenance than they thought, or produce a byproduct that they won't be able to sell. Yeah, nasty slag made from garbage and shit... I bet that the Department of Transportation will be all over that. Even if they have to bury the slag, I suppose at least it won't take up as much space as the original garbage.

Downside #26 (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 8 years ago | (#16073863)

There goes our last chance to find the Apollo 11 master tape.

Nuclear (0)

Kamineko (851857) | about 8 years ago | (#16073865)

Nah, this ain't no good.

I want them to harness the very mass as energy itself. No byproduct, just energy.

120 MW a day ?? (4, Informative)

Old Wolf (56093) | about 8 years ago | (#16073871)

It's not possible to have "120 megawatts per day". A watt is a RATE of energy usage (joules per second, in fact). It takes 120 MW to power a million 120W light bulbs -- for 5 seconds, or 5 hours, or a day, or a year -- how long you keep that rate up, has nothing to do with how fast the actual rate is !

Perhaps the article meant "120 megawatt-hours per day", although that would be a very strange unit of measurement (not as bad as Libraries of Congress, though).

Re:120 MW a day ?? (1)

PAjamian (679137) | about 8 years ago | (#16074006)

The article now simply says 120 megawatts. It appears to have been corrected.

Orange Juice? (4, Funny)

Skudd (770222) | about 8 years ago | (#16073872)

I'm sorry, but I highly doubt I'll be consuming any more Tropicana products if they're going to be made from steam of vaporized landfill waste... There's just something unsettling about that.

Re:Orange Juice? (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 8 years ago | (#16073947)

I have modpoints. However, I couldn't find the -1 Knee Jerk Reaction mod.

Re:Orange Juice? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073956)

Perhaps Tropicana is piping in water, and the heat from the burning trash is turning it into steam, which gets piped back to Tropicana where it is used (for what? pasteurization?) and then returns to the trash plant again. The water/steam never leaves its pipe... it neither touches the OJ or the trash. It only gets heat from the trash and delivers it to the OJ. Sort of like the water in a nuclear power plant that powers the turbines never leaves its pipes.

Re:Orange Juice? (1)

gregor-e (136142) | about 8 years ago | (#16073962)

But you'd be okay using the electricity they generate to warm your soup? What's the difference? In one case they're transmitting energy as heat stored in water to drive turbines in Tropicana. In the second case, they've used the heat to drive their own turbines and send the electricity to you.

Re:Orange Juice? (1)

Skudd (770222) | about 8 years ago | (#16073990)

Thinking about it that way, it would probably be fine. Reading the original post though, I have an image burned in my mind of the steam being mixed with the final product. It's not a pretty sight.

Bad effects downstream (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073925)

Burning trash to produce power always sounds like such a great idea -- pure goodness and apple pie -- therefore popular with politicians and voters and slashdotters, until you actually measure the levels of heavy-metal pollutants that exit through the power plant's smoke stack. Sure, the levels are "low" (typically 1-15ppm) but heavy metals have a very nasty habit of bio-accumulating in plants, fish, and animals, especially kids, causing nerve/brain damage/lowered IQ. Unfortunately, with garbage, no matter how many regulations there are not to throw out this or that, there are always going to be things in trash which should never be burnt because they contain heavy metals in various materials. Remind me to stay away from Tropicana fruit juice.

Am I the only one who sees a disconnect here? (4, Interesting)

vrmlguy (120854) | about 8 years ago | (#16073931)

"County officials estimate their entire landfill -- 4.3 million tons of trash collected since 1978 -- will be gone in 18 years."

"Geoplasma expects to recoup its $425 million investment, funded by bonds, within 20 years through the sale of electricity and slag."

Does this mean that during the last two years, St. Lucie County will be importing trash from other counties? What if those counties also build these things? Will "trash pirates" be raiding nearby landfills for material to burn?

I like juice... (1)

Assassin bug (835070) | about 8 years ago | (#16073955)

Especially when burnt garbage steam has been bubbled through it.

Mmmm Tropicana garbage juice...[Homer voiceover]...

Does anyone think of Lil' Lisa's Slurry here? (1)

gearwhore (690744) | about 8 years ago | (#16073957)

Does anyone think of Lil' Lisa's Slurry here? I'm surprised that no one else has mentioned it yet..

I'm no engineer but.... (1)

Desolator144 (999643) | about 8 years ago | (#16073981)

using like a billion joules in heat to plasma arc weld garbage that will give off 1/100th of that amount of heat and using it to power a power plant seems not only counterproductive but also impossible. Even if they're using chemical energy to create the plasma, they could just use that chemical reaction to power the plant. But if they find a way to use all the toxic carcinogenic fumes from burning plastic, rubber, and toxic metals that are created to power another plant, then we just might be in business!

Sierra to launch patent infringement lawsuit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16073983)

Clearly this is ripped off from Space Quest: "use vaporizer on bin": izer []

Roger Wilco rolls in his digital grave!

Another idea for garbage. (1)

kahrytan (913147) | about 8 years ago | (#16074008)

This is just another idea to rid the world of gas to create energy. Changing World Technologies [] is also working to turn garbage into oil.

Those who are worried about gases being released into atmosphere. This technology is much much more then a incinerator. It breaks down the garbage into it's most basic form and broken down into elemental components. You should listen to the video at GeoPlasma [] . Any CO2 produced could be passed through a zirconia electrolysis cell to produce oxygen.

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