The greenhouse environment enables complete control of soil matrix, humidity, lighting & temperature. About a decade ago, an anaerobic treatment process was developed and patented that was capable of degrading lignins and thus producing about twice the volume of methane gas as other digesters. Just take a close look at the following video about a waste to energy engineering plant London, UK. There is some added animation to explain the process of generating electricity from waste more clearly.
“Waste-to-energy” programs were thereafter developed for municipal solid waste, beef, dairy, swine, turkey, broiler, and layer production wastes; food processing wastes; agricultural solid and liquid wastes; and high organic strength, industrial liquid, and solid wastes. In each instance, the five co-products of methane, CO2, organic fertilizer (digestate), liquid fertilizer concentrate and reverse osmosis permeate water would be produced for subsequent marketing to the commodity marketplace.
Methane may be used in part or whole for the generation of electricity to be used by waste generators, while the excess electricity can be sold to the grid. In the case of MSW, aluminum and steel cans are taken out of the waste and marketed to metals commodity traders. In each instance, 100 percent of several feedstocks end up in co-products or separated products that are sold to the marketplace. None of it requires landfill or other disposal as no waste products remain. Such excellent results have been directly attributable to the inherent efficiencies of the above-referenced digester process.
Such renewable and sustainable waste-to-energy applications represent an excellent first start toward electricity independence, but hardly achieve total energy independence, which includes both electricity and transportation/heating fuels. This is somewhat different from Mechanical Engineering but the career prospects are just as good and studying Mechanical Engineering will definitely help to secure a rewarding career in this rapidly developing field.
Biodiesel can be used for both heating fuels and transportation. It can additionally be used as a fuel for reciprocating turbine and engine generators. Additionally, biodiesel may be further refined into both lubricants and greases. It may thus be considered as a total theoretical replacement for all gaseous, liquid and solid fossil fuels on both a renewable and sustainable basis. In short, biodiesel represents a fully acceptable future fuel from a scientific purview.
Whether it can be produced on an economically viable basis is the current challenge. But whereas ethanol, solar, hydrogen, biomass and wind all require substantial governmental subsidies for their continuing existence, biodiesel can be produced in a manner that obviates the need for governmental or other assistance. The world of Engineering offers so many professional options!
U.S. soybean farmers currently grow perhaps only 1 percent of the vegetable oil necessary to replace the fossil fuels used for U.S. truck, car, plane, train and ship transportation and home heating with biodiesel. With 95 percent of the soybeans crop committed to ending up as food products, soy prices fluctuate widely and are currently at a six-year high though President Trump’s policies have damaged that again over the past year. Buying marketplace soybeans can only lead to non-competitive and unstable biodiesel costs. A different approach for producing a massive amount of inexpensive vegetable oil on a consistent basis must, therefore, be developed.
One such approach could be the use of some 3,500 1.5-square-kilometer greenhouses, each 50 stories high, and totaling some 80 million acres. In a greenhouse environment, one may control pests, droughts, plant diseases, weeds, acid rain and deficiencies of micro- and macronutrients. Additionally, greenhouse farming can produce over 4 perfect crops/year, every year.
In order to maximize the square foot value of each greenhouse, several waste products associated with vegetable oil farming and subsequent biodiesel refining consist of harvested soybean crop residuals and glycerine. These waste products are anaerobically digested to produce methane, carbon dioxide, organic fertilizer, liquid fertilizer concentrate and reverse osmosis permeate water.
The square foot value may be further increased by growing several below-ground crops – onions, beets, and potatoes – simultaneously with above-ground soybeans. This technology is called intercropping. Adding the production of swine, broilers, layers, beef, dairy, fresh fish and turkey food products could also boost production.
However, these associated production facilities would contribute only incrementally to the massive greenhouse, while adding significantly to waste loads. The wastes generated from these several activities would be anaerobically digested to produce additional methane, CO2, organic fertilizer, liquid fertilizer concentrate and reverse osmosis permeate water.
Subsequently processing the onion, beets, potatoes, swine, broilers, layers, beef, dairy, fresh fish and turkey food products may help increase the greenhouses’ productivity, producing a value-added product while significantly increasing the waste load. These food products would be organically produced, thus maximizing their flavor, safety, and marketplace value. The processing waste load would be anaerobically digested to produce additional methane, carbon dioxide, organic fertilizer, liquid fertilizer concentrate and reverse osmosis permeate water.
Since electricity, pork, chicken, eggs, beef, milk, fish and turkeys are consumed on a distributed basis, it makes economic sense to produce these products on a distributed basis to reduce distribution costs, thus maximizing the marketplace competitiveness of each such product. The production of each of these food products may be shifted as desired in order to respond to ever-changing marketplace demands.
The square-foot cost of each massive greenhouse may be minimized by utilizing slip form construction, which has been further developed since its first use on building the Hoover Dam. The use of foam concrete further reduces construction costs. Lastly, the use of inorganic waste materials such as bottom and fly ash from distributed coal-fired power plants may further reduce construction costs.
The net products produced from each massive greenhouse consist of high-quality reverse osmosis permeate water, processed food products, biodiesel, aqueous ammonia, methane, and electricity. If the fats from the processing of food were used for increased biodiesel production, the amount of excess methane gas and associated co-products would be reduced. Electricity generation could be eliminated if 100 percent of the methane could be otherwise marketed. The commodity marketplace will ultimately determine the optimum mix of food production and, in turn, the optimum mix of co-products produced.
All of the co-products are considered equal. Their individual marketplace pricing depends entirely on ever-changing marketplace conditions. The idea is to make each value-added product as competitive as necessary to move each product as it is produced. Long-term storage of food and other co-products is not desirable. Because of the tremendous value generated, the sell-price of each product may be adjusted as necessary to make all of the products extremely competitive and therefore easy to move into the marketplace.
InterGen is a new IPP formed in 1995 as a result of a joint venture between Shell Generating (Holding) B.V. and Bechtel Enterprises Energy B.V. The entity has raised over $20 billion in non-recourse project financing in building some 16,000 MW of electricity generating capacity worldwide. This represents strong marketplace evidence that qualifying project feasibility studies will attract inexpensive investor interest on a continuing basis. Interesting is also this article about the American Society for Engineering Education and Online Technology.
For ease of financing, the format of the renewable and sustainable energy independence project will be that of an IPP even though many more products other than green electricity will be marketed. If the local grid won’t buy the electricity at their true avoided cost, each IPP location will build its own power transmission lines to service the nearest municipality at a sell price, which will force the local grid to either wheel the electricity to the final customer or to purchase the output. This approach may well require some pull from the local municipality. Attractive pricing should generate the necessary pulling force.
The economic principles of Natural Capitalism, a concept pioneered by the Rocky Mountain Institute, are applied throughout the entire energy independence business model. These principles consist of the more productive use of resources; to redesign production on biological lines with closed loops, no waste, and no toxicity; to lease or sell a continuous flow of services that meet customers’ evolving value needs; and the reinvestment of ordinary profits to further expand the business. Multinational company DuPont, Franco-Italian chipmaker STMicroelectronics, Michigan-based Steelcase, and the Brazilian city of Curitiba are implementing the principles of Natural Capitalism with phenomenal success.
The U.S. consumes 25 percent of the world’s total oil production but owns just 3 percent of its known oil reserves. The rapid development of renewable and sustainable energy independence is becoming more apparent as a necessity for national security, as well as the continuation of inexpensive energy. The proposed technology can be implemented in virtually every country.