Monongalia County generates close to 10,000 tons of solid waste each month. I recently updated the County Commission on a research project I’ve been doing with my colleagues at Downstream Strategies for the Monongalia County Solid Waste Authority. We’ve been investigating options for converting solid waste into energy, which would turn our waste into a resource and create local jobs. The Dominion Post covered my update last week.
Currently, most of the county’s solid waste is trucked to a landfill in the Northern Panhandle. Some is recycled, but recycling is inconvenient for people who live out in the county. The Solid Waste Authority is responsible for thinking strategically about future options for the county’s solid waste. They asked us to look into a waste-to-energy plant, because this type of plant could turn all of the county’s waste into a resource, and not just the waste that’s recycled.
We primarily looked at plants that would convert waste into synthetic gas, or syngas. This gas can then be burned to generate electricity or converted into diesel fuel. The county’s solid waste could be combined with waste tires, which are now being stockpiled in a monofill in Nicholas County. It could also be supplemented with coal.
My team looked at similar plants in the United States and around the world, identified the factors influencing the feasibility of these plants, and compiled information about the end products that could be generated.
We recommended holding off on such a project until the economics turn around. Currently, the price of natural gas, electricity, and diesel fuel is so low that it would be difficult for a waste-to-energy plant to compete.
I applaud the Solid Waste Authority for looking at innovative options for turning the county's solid waste into a resource. Our team is continuing to monitor other similar facilities, and we'll be ready to pursue a facility in Monongalia County should it prove to be feasible in the future.
Our feasibility report can be found here.