Sometime around 2017, assuming current projections hold true, Maui will get its very own waste-to-energy facility, courtesy of California-based Anaergia Services. Such a plant would convert raw garbage into various fuel products, which we could either use here or sell elsewhere. The lure of such a facility is that it would both take a lot of pressure off our landfills and generate much-needed revenue. The facility is also planned to take in wastewater, which the county bills as a far better solution than its current method of injecting it into the ground, which courts have ruled is illegal.
Whether it will do all that is a subject of debate. Recently The Maui News ran dueling op-eds (though on different days) from two men who know the ins and outs of such facilities. In his Mar. 18 op-ed, former Maui County Energy Commissioner Doug McLeod said such a plant is “not sustainable.” Four days later, Karl Bossert–Anaergia’s director of business development for the Pacific region–countered McLeod with his own op-ed that called the future facility “workable” and “nature-friendly.”
To make sense of all this, we’ve broken up the he-said/he-said op-eds into bite-sized pellets (not unlike those that will eventually emerge from Anaergia’s facility) that are easy to mentally digest. They also make it easy to match up McLeod’s and Bossert’s arguments into a kind of debate over what the proposed facility will eventually do.
The proposed facility will make two products–solid Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) pellets and methane gas. McLeod says the pellets require an “old fashioned” boiler to burn, and there’s just one on Maui–the HC&S mill–although there is a coal plant on Oahu that may buy them.
Bossert counters that RDF “has uses and markets on and off the island,” but didn’t list any specifics.
HPower on Oahu
McLeod says the City and County of Honolulu’s HPower facility originally consumed RDF pellets, but found that they “contained all sorts of compounds that would react during the combustion process and cause damage to the vessel.” For that reason, McLeod said that HPower’s 2012 phase “does not use RDF.”
Bossert countered by saying there have been “advances in technology” and any comparison between HPower and the proposed Maui facility “is not rational.”
According to McLeod, methane–the facility’s other fuel product–will be too expensive, in large part because “you would have to pump all [waste]water uphill to get it to the location proposed by Anaergia. Bossert calls this “inaccurate information” and says the company will also “grow an energy crop in West Maui with recycled water” and “almost any solution to the reuse of water will require pumping of water.”
McLeod insists that because Anaergia’s proposed facility will not solve the county’s wastewater problems, he “suspect[s] the county would have to spend millions on storage of wastewater in order to satisfy both Anaergia and the court.” For his part, Bossert says that “all wastewater treatment facilities are different” and no solution “is ever perfect,” but he did address the issue of potential storage.
Photo: Ropable/Wikimedia Commons