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Waste-to-Energy Mapping Tool Matches Waste Producers, Anaerobic Digesters

The EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region has launched the US’s first waste to biogas mapping tool, aimed at supporting the use of organic waste for energy projects.

The tool is an interactive map that aims to bridge the gap between large energy generators and restaurants, hotels and other food waste generators, to increase the rate of organic waste that is converted to energy and reduce the amount sent to landfill.

Users can determine the types of facilities in their area, where clusters are located, and the distance between a waste producer and an anaerobic digester. The tool also functions in reverse – allowing generators of organic waste to find partner facilities that will accept it.

Facilities such as wastewater treatment plants and some dairies manage waste with anaerobic digesters, which produce methane-rich biogas as a natural byproduct. By adding food scraps or fats, oils, and grease to an anaerobic digester, facilities can increase biogas production to make money while providing a renewable energy source, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These business and environmental opportunities may present a largely unrealized potential, the EPA says.

A study performed by the Northern California Power Agency in 2008 determined that agricultural, wastewater, and food processing wastes could be digested to obtain 453 megawatts of energy – enough to run a utility-scale power plant while also preventing 3.7 million dry tons of organic material from ending up in landfills, the EPA says.

The EPA tool is just the latest in a number of applications that have attempted to use the internet to bring together two parties with symbiotic needs.

Earlier this month, Clean Power Finance accepted two grants from the Department of Energy, one of which will be used to create an online system designed to find and match solar developers with consumers in different geographical areas during different times of the year.

In October last year, consulting firm CH2M HILL launched WaterMatch, a free social networking site designed to help industry and agriculture find source of effluent for water re-use. On the site water users can find wastewater treatment plants close to their current and potential future operations and then connect with the utilities operating those plants.

Recyclematch, launched in February 2011, operates an online business-to-business marketplace that allows companies to buy, sell or give away large volumes of waste including plastics, textiles, paper, chemicals, food, metals and building materials.

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