June 22, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Portable power from trash

Portable power from trash
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Solar energy isn't the only renewable resource: there's also garbage.

A company called AgriPower will begin production next year of a movable power generator fueled by a wide range of waste products, from walnut shells to discarded tires.

Although solar and wind energy are the best-known renewable energies, generating power from biomass is getting a closer look, as societies try to diversify their fuel sources.

AgriPower's combined heat and power system was originally envisioned for developing countries that could burn agricultural wastes to make electricity and heat.

The multi-piece unit includes a large feed hopper that holds 5 tons of material, and a high-temperature incinerator that vaporizes biomass as it comes in. The resulting heat can be used to turn a turbine to make 300 kilowatts of electricity. The heat can also be used to power other processes like heating.

As the company gets closer to manufacturing--with first commercial products anticipated next April--it is finding a much wider set of potential applications, said CEO Barry Berman.


The company is seeing interest from landfill operators who, short on space for burying trash, would rather incinerate their waste to produce power and sell it to utilities.

The company is also talking to supermarket chains in the U.K. and France that have to pay more than $150 per ton in "tipping fees" to get rid of organic trash such as discarded produce, cardboard and paper.

"If you are producing any waste stream and you are paying someone to bring it to a landfill, you gotta be nuts," said Berman.

For industrial processes that use diesel engines, AgriPower's system pays for itself within a year, he said. A wood mill, for example, could incinerate sawdust and other waste to make power to run its machines, rather than run off diesel power.

Remote applications
There are already large-scale combined heat and power systems that use biomass as fuel to make on-site electricity. Incinerating municipal waste to make power is also done in almost 90 locations in the United States, according to the Solid Waste Association of North America.

Municipal waste is increasingly segregated, which means on-site power production using a specific material is now a more viable option, said Berman. Another company, Ze-Gen, is testing a process called gasification with construction and demolition debris as fuel.

Berman said that its generator has been tested with a range of materials, including corn husks, corn cobs and sugar cane residue, called bagasse, as well as tires and non-recyclable plastics. Because it generates heat, the unit can dry material like chicken waste before incinerating it, he said.

The polluting emissions from the unit, which is 75 percent efficient, has been tested in several U.S. states and European countries. It met emissions requirements in Switzerland and California, which are stringent measures, said AgriPower vice president Anthony Kahn.

The incinerator uses a construction called a bubbling fluidized bed--essentially a layer of sand heated to high temperatures--and vaporizes waste within seconds of entering the furnace.

Although the output of the initial unit is a fraction of an industrial power plant's capacity, AgriPower's 80,000-pound generator can easily be transported and usually installed within two days. That mobility is important to using biomass for power production, said Berman.

"It can be brought to remote areas and be brought to where the fuel is located," he said. "A rather significant problem in biomass is gathering it and bringing it to a furnace to burn it."

See more CNET content tagged:
Combined Heat and Power, waste, electricity, generator, heat


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I like this line
"The heat can also be used to power other processes like heating. "

But hey, sounds cool We could stand to get rid of some trash.
Posted by DraconumPB (229 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Great Scott!
With a litle development this could provide the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity I need to power the flux capacitor!
Posted by adasha76 (250 comments )
Reply Link Flag
As long as you...
...have a neverending supply of trash in your DeLorean, then you're all set buddy. :D
Posted by DraconumPB (229 comments )
Link Flag
Yeah, great proof reading
I'm glad I'm not the only one that noticed.
Posted by ittesi259 (727 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Portable Power from trash
I hope they can take this to the next level and create one for consumer use - this would slash the amount of trash created at a person's home and sent to a landfill, plus it would create the possibiity of extra electric and heat for the home which would reduce the costs of current electric/heating costs. This would also be great for remote places where people may have vacation cabins or even RV campgrounds where electric/heat would support the RV community in addition to reducing the waste produced. The possibilities are endless. IF they make a consumer model.
Posted by tdrsfram (6 comments )
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I like that idea myself
This first generation of green products will likely target municipalities, but I think the better vision is to have these systems compact and affordable to be implemented at the home.

Give consumers the ability to supplement their energy needs/waste removal.
Posted by jamie.p.walsh (288 comments )
Link Flag
Another use
Fishing, hunting, eco-tour, and ski lodges use noisy and stinky diesel generators. Switching to this would really make staying in those places a much more pleasent experience. Wonder what the price tag is?
Posted by Phillep_H (497 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Mr. Fusion!
Toss in an empty beer can, a banana peel, press the button. Your trans-temporal delorian is ready to go.

Really, though, I think the entire idea of trash is stupid. "Hey, lets lump all these completely unrelated materials together and have them hauled off! That way, we never have to really deal with them properly! Brilliant!"

Recycle. Everything. Including biomass. I applaud their efforts and wish them luck.
Posted by ethana2 (348 comments )
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look at it this way
imagine how many tons of refuse a big city produces each day. count backwards and you do the math. how many years worth of "fuel" would that be? i just hope this could burn those thrash in the landfill:)
Posted by edfc (5 comments )
Link Flag
Power from the invaders.
Great way to get rid of invading weeds in the lakes, etc.
Posted by MankatoWilli (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Its indeed very interesting to note that how even garbage can be turned into a powerful source of energy. However, I guess the technology and mechanics involved in such kind of process is quite expensive. These kind of <a href="http://www.portable-power-generator.net">power generators</a> are best suitable for the increasing demand.
Posted by capri_nits (2 comments )
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We have a small resort ans we would be wery interested in a 25-50KW bio mass generator preferebly a unit that we could use sea algae as partial fuel.
Posted by Andre Niederhauser (1 comment )
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