Turning Food Waste into Energy to Power Homes

By | 2017-08-01

Organic waste sent to landfills decomposes and produces 18% of U.S. methane gas emissions, according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). About one-third of the world’s food – nearly 1.3 billion tons – is lost or wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. For all industrialized nations, food waste accounts for roughly $680 billion annually. In addition, composting and digestion of food waste are inefficient and slow.

Biogas, energy of organic waste captured through anaerobic digestion, can also be burned to produce electricity and heat (cogeneration). To achieve the Grenelle Environment Forum objective of 23% of energy from renewable sources in France by 2020, several projects in France and around the world use biomass to heat plants, buildings and even entire cities.

What could we power using food waste energy?

Save on Energy, an online marketplace that helps consumers shop for electricity and natural gas, posted a graphic that maps out just how much power could be generated by converting food waste into electricity. While this technology exists and is very efficient, it’s still not widely used.



A new way to turn food waste into energy

Researchers have been working for years to develop methods to turn food waste into a viable and economic energy source. Now, researchers at Cornell University have found a new way to capture nearly all of the energy in a food waste product, leaving little behind to fill a landfill. First, the researchers applied a method to “pressure cook” the waste, creating a crude liquid that be turned into a biofuel. Then, what remains is broken down into methane that can be burned to create electricity and heat. « The development comes as scientists continue to explore what role waste can play in a clean energy future. »

“Food waste should have a high value,” says study author Roy Posmanik, a Cornell postdoctoral researcher, in a statement. “We’re treating it as a resource, and we’re making marketable products out of it.”

AD now powers over a million homes in the UK

According to a new report from the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA), sufficient biogas is now being produced by UK anaerobic digestion plants to power over 1 million homes.

Launched yesterday at the UK AD & Biogas and World Biogas Expo 2017, the 2017 Market Report showed that AD in the UK now has a capacity of 730 MWe-e, an increase of 18% over this time last year, with total energy generation of 10.7 TWh per year.

Delays in the passing of legislation for the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), which is set to restore tariff levels to 5.35 p/kWh, has meant that there are currently at least 13 AD plants on hold. Electricity generation from AD, meanwhile, is receiving next to no government support.

“The fact that AD can now power over a million homes is a great milestone to achieve,” said ADBA Chief Executive Charlotte Morton. “However, while it’s encouraging that the new Government has committed to the Paris Agreement and to meeting the UK’s Carbon Budgets, there is currently a desperate lack of long-term policy support for AD, particularly in heat and transport, areas where AD can make a significant contribution to decarbonisation.”

In the video below, Biogas Channel asks Charlotte Morton, ADBA Chief Executive, how the UK will set about reaching its targets for 2030 and 2050.


UK government promises electricity revolution

In its Industrial Strategy, the UK government is promising a revolution in the way electricity is made, used and stored.

According to the government, consumers in the UK could save billions of pounds when new rule s come into place to make it easier for people to generate their own power with solar panels, store it in batteries and sell it to the National Grid.

If they work, consumers will save £17 billion to £40 billion by 2050, according to government and energy regulator Ofgem.

It is not clear what role bioenergy will play in this electricity revolution, but what is sure, is that the whole scheme forms part of the government’s low-carbon economy plans for its Industrial Strategy.

Starts-up in the renewable energy generation sector

The French start-up Waga Energy recently installed a waste treatment plant in Saint-Maximin (France), capable of converting biogas from household waste into renewable energy (biomethane), which can supply up to 3,000 households. This new technology, called ” Waga Box“, is a world first that will benefit the inhabitants of the south of Oise (heating, cooking, bath water, etc.). The electricity production from biogas has only an electrical efficiency of 40% but biomethane production by the Waga Box makes it possible to valorize 90% of the energy. To produce electricity, biogas is mostly flared or released directly into the atmosphere. This new technology of 250 m2 allows to deliver 20 GWh of energy per year, and can thus supply approximately 3 000 households of Saint-Maximin, Apremont, Verneuil-en-Halatte and Creil.


The Israeli start-up HomeBiogas has developed a system specifically designed for domestic use in which you deposit food leftovers, which makes it possible to produce biogas easily at home. The biogas produced can thus be used for cooking, heating and even lighting. This compact biogas converter is delivered as a kit to the individual who can then install it himself in his garden.